When mobile units work, and when they do not
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2002:
WESTBROOK, Connecticut; ST. LOUIS, Missouri–Mobile
neutering project results could scarcely contrast more than those of
the TEAM Mobile Feline Unit and a similar unit recently deployed in
Sponsored since 1997 by the Vernon A. Tait All-Animal
Adoption, Preservation, & Rescue Fund, TEAM in May 2002 announced
completion of more than 50,000 cat sterilizations, at the rate of
about 12,000 surgeries per year.
Founded by John Caltibiano, DVM, TEAM roams throughout
Connecticut and has ventured into upstate New York, sterilizing cats
(male or female), vaccinating them against rabies, distemper, and
respiratory infection, trimming their nails, and treating them for
eat mites if necessary, all for the single price of $49.
Caltibiano and TEAM coordinator Donna Sicuranza emphasize
preparation and publicity, coordinated by local humane
organizations, animal control units, civic groups, and sometimes
private practice veterinarians, to ensure that they receive enough
cats to make each stop productive.
Since October 2001, TEAM has offered a rebate of $19 per
feral cat brought to the mobile unit, to encourage feral cat
trapping before clinic dates. The rebate program has now resulted in
surgeries on approximately 500 cats.
In St. Louis, however, early results from the first three
months of use of a donated mobile unit were so poor that the St.
Louis Health Department gave up on it after sterilizing just 252
animals in a trial run that reportedly cost $88,000.
The St. Louis mobile project was begun by Salomon Smith
Barney investment firm senior vice president Richard G. Camp, 59,
in memory of Rodney McCallister, a 10-year-old who was killed by a
pack of free-roaming pit bull terriers in March 2001. An anonymous
donor put up $50,000, the Anheuser-Busch Foundation gave an equal
amount, and another $50,000 was raised by Carol House Furniture,
the Martiz Group, John and Carol Epstein, and the St. Louis
Metropolitan Animal Responsibility Team.
Program manager Rich Stevenson hoped that the St. Louis
mobile unit would sterilize 200 animals per month, at $25 apiece,
including rabies vaccination, licensing, and microchipping.
When the goal was not even approached, program veterinarian
Philip Wagenknecht blamed the failure on community opposition to pet
sterilization–but St. Louis activists told ANIMAL PEOPLE that the
real problem was that the mobile outreach effort was never promoted
as vigorously or prominently as beer or furniture, and little
groundwork was done in the neighborhoods that were supposed to be
Wagenknecht and the city health department next tried a
shuttle bus project, to ferry animals from outlying low-income areas
to the St. Louis Pet Clinic. The shuttle bus approach tends to be
more economically efficient in metropolitan areas than mobile units,
which are more practical in rural and semi-rural regions.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Sarah Casey Newman told
ANIMAL PEOPLE in April that the shuttle bus seemed to be more
successful, but other St. Louis sources indicated that inadequate
promotion and neighborhood groundwork were still a problem.