Cats and dogs

New BHS facility is counting on public support

Veterinarian Rachel Caspary needs more tools to increase the number of spays and neuters she can perform each day.

Veterinarian Rachel Caspary needs more tools to increase the number of spays and neuters she can perform each day.

Photo By tom gascoyne

The Butte Humane Society’s new facility in south Chico is open, but a lack of capital, staff and volunteers is proving to be a challenge.

In July, BHS leased the building on Country Drive to take some of the pressure off its dilapidated and overcrowded shelter about a half-mile away on Fair Street. The new place, which once housed Affordable Mortuary, is decidedly more attractive than the old facility, which has sort of a prison feel to it.

Initially, the sick cats were moved to the new spot, followed by some of the healthy cats ready for adoption. It’s now home to a spay-and-neuter clinic (in the past animals were driven to a clinic in Gridley). The long-term plan is to offer low-cost spay-and-neutering services to the public—they’re hoping to keep the fee below $60—but at this point the facility is fixing only its own population of animals.

Rachel Caspary, the facility’s newly hired veterinarian, is doing as many as 18 spays and neuters a day and hopes to get that number up to 30 when the service is opened to the public. She said, however, that there is only about a two-month cushion in the clinic’s budget.

Among the obstacles is a shortage of surgery packs used for the operations.

“Each animal needs its own pack,” Caspary said. “It is a little, wrapped-up pack of all the tools that are sterilized for each animal’s surgery. We only have six right now and we can only turn them around so quickly. After we do the surgery, we have to scrub and soak the tools, run them through the [sterilizing device] and then wait for them to cool. Each pack costs about $370 and our goal is to have at least 14.

Christine Fixico, the shelter’s executive director, said she has major concerns about the organization’s current financial situation, but added that this time of year is traditionally the low point in donations and funding. The lease for the new building runs about $2,800 per month.

Of course, the idea of the facility is to get a handle on controlling litters of kittens and puppies populating the town, which in turn leads to an overcrowded animal shelter.

Caspary talked about the work of the new facility during a recent visit.

“[The animals] come in, they have their emancipation period, which is five days not counting holidays, where we wait for any potential owners to come and find them,” she said. “If they reach that period then they are ours and we can decide to alter them if they need to be.”

There are three cat rooms or “catteries,” which are well-lit, comfortable spaces for the felines, most of which on this day were sleeping peacefully.

The catteries at the old shelter are bit darker and the sound of dogs barking from their kennels just outside the rooms makes the cats a bit jittery. (Dogs also come to the new clinic to be fixed, or if they are sick, to get examined by Caspary.)

“Eventually we’ll get all the cats here,” she said. “We need to get more staff in place. We need financial support and volunteer help. This is a more attractive facility to work at, so I’m hoping that more volunteers will be willing to take part.”

Scott Schulman, a member of the BHS Board of Directors and a local businessman, echoed Caspary’s concerns.

“We’re hell-bent determined to keep this clinic in an active and healthy way, and we very much need the help of the community,” he said. “We’re keeping it low-cost so that everybody in the community can afford it and the problem of too many cats and too many dogs eventually goes away. But we need donations, and more donations and more donations. We don’t charge enough for us to pay for this by ourselves and we’re not going to. We want to continue to offer this service but it’s a community service and we need the community to help us.”

It is up to the community to sustain the new clinic, he said.

“We’re not going to the government,” Schulman said. “We’re not asking the city for money. We need everyone to come out and if you can’t bring money, then volunteer. That’s a wonderful thing to do.”

For its part, the city of Chico has set aside $100,000 to draw up plans to rebuild the old shelter, and perhaps turn it into a two-story structure. In the meantime, those who donate to the shelter are asked to specify when giving money that the donation go to the spay-and-neuter clinic to help keep it open.