Patricia N. was third in line for an appointment at the ASPCA mobile veterinary clinic on July 15, to have her cat, Louie, neutered.
Situated in the parking lot of the Weingart YMCA in East Los Angeles, the ASPCA mobile unit performs free spay and neuter surgeries six days a month—every Friday and every other Saturday—while Pets for Life (PFL), a program operated by Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), reaches out to local residents to book spay/neuter appointments for their pets.
Patricia, who is disabled, and her husband Raul, a former construction worker, are currently homeless and live in a recreational vehicle without running water or electricity with their five cats and two dogs.
“Louie was born during the pandemic, and I knew I had to get him fixed, but it was a challenge,” says Patricia. “I’m just so grateful. I never had any human babies myself, but I love my fur babies.”
The same day Louie was neutered, Aracely N. brought her Chihuahua, Daisy, for spay surgery. And Edith F., a research associate who lives in Boyle Heights, drove her family’s three boxers—Monroe, Wallace and Penny—to the ASPCA clinic for spay and neuter surgeries, nail trims and flea treatment. She learned about the free services from PFL representatives at a pet wellness day event at the YMCA.
After Wallace pulled off his plastic collar and began to lick his incision, Edith called the ASPCA’s 24-hour hotline and was able to book a same-day appointment for Wallace to be checked by an ASPCA veterinarian.
“They provided medication for Wallace; now all three of our dogs are doing great,” says Edith. “We’re so grateful.”
Joining Forces for Greater Impact
The ASPCA and PFL partnership started in 2019, taking root through the support of longtime ASPCA supporter and spay/neuter advocate, Kathy Taggares, who joined forces with a friend, another passionate spay/neuter advocate and a supporter of Pets For Life.
“There’s such a tremendous need in East L.A. for spay/neuter,” says Jennifer Anderson, Director of Operations for Community Medicine in Los Angeles. “It has many medical benefits, and it reduces the number of unwanted litters.”
On days when they’re not at the YMCA assisting PFL clients, the ASPCA performs spay/neuter surgeries on mobile clinics in El Monte, Maywood, and Cudahy—all in Los Angeles County, and at their stationary spay/neuter clinic in South Los Angeles. As of August 27, 11,400 surgeries have been performed this year.
The ASPCA can perform up to 28 surgeries on each of the days it is parked at the YMCA.
More than 1,300 local pets have been spayed or neutered as a result of the two-year-old ASPCA-PFL partnership. Those surgeries were suspended on March 19, 2020 due to COVID restrictions, but resumed in October with a backlog of requests.
A Decade Makes A Difference
Robert Sotelo, Manager of Pets for Life in L.A., recalls living in East L.A when Pets for Life was launched in 2011. He remembers when packs of loose and unaltered dogs roamed the streets, spreading parvovirus and other illnesses.
“That’s what we used to deal with,” says Robert, who started as a PFL community organizer in 2012. “It may take a long time to convince a pet owner to have their animal fixed, but we’ll still be there for them. My phone number has been floating around the community for nearly 10 years.”
It was Robert who took Patricia’s call to make Louie’s neuter appointment. Robert first met Patricia in 2015 and connected her to a shower program at the YMCA and a local food bank.
“She’s been so diligent about getting all her pets spayed and neutered, despite what’s going on in her own life,” says Robert, who still checks in on her regularly. “She really loves her animals.”
For clients like Edith and Patricia, having reliable veterinary care for their pets means everything, and both hope to see the ASPCA/PFL partnership extend beyond 2022.
“My animals keep me busy,” says Patricia. “But they’re my reason to live.”
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