Montana Spay/Neuter Task Force fixing for “Phase 3”

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  June 2003:

VICTOR,  Montana–Scarce funding may doom
the Montana Spay/Neuter Task Force,  founder Jean
Atthowe told ANIMAL PEOPLE in early June
2003–but,  characteristic of the optimism that
impelled Atthowe to form the Task Force in 1996,
she added that lack of resources may expedite the
transition of the work to community management.
This would fulfill her initial ambition for the project.
“From November 1996 through October
2002,”  Atthowe said,  “the Task Force has helped
to create 46 pet care events with local hosts,
and has provided spay/neuter surgeries for over
15,000 Montana dogs and cats.  The Task Force has
visited all seven Native American nations in
Montana from one to four times each,”  as well as
many small towns in remote locations which often
do not even have a local veterinarian.


“Recently the Task Force has been working
with ever larger Montana communities,  at the
invitation of city councils and county
commissions,”  Atthowe added.  “With
participating veterinarians becoming more
proficient at high-volume surgery and the Task
Force refining procedures,  the numbers of
surgeries have increased.”
The major secret of mobile success,
longtime Task Force participant Jeff Young,  DVM,
told ANIMAL PEOPLE,  was learning to avoid using
the task force mobile unit as a mobile operating
room.  Young pioneered mobile sterilization on
Native American reservations during the early
1990s,  repeatedly circling Colorado in an old
school bus he converted into a rolling animal
hospital,  but eventually came to realize that
using his vehicle mainly to haul supplies could
enable him to fix more animals,  faster.
“Finding space to work on the road is not
a problem,”  Young said.  “All I need is
electricity and running water.  Anywhere I might
set up has a community center or church or town
hall or schoolroom where I can work for a
weekend.  Resupply is my problem.  I can’t get
surgical materials out in the boondocks,  so when
I run out,  I have to go back to some city.
Using my vehicle to haul supplies instead of as a
clinic,  I can fix 1,000 animals before I have to
visit a city.  I can stay on the road for several
months if I want to.”
Said Atthowe,  “The Task Force carries in
a small 1985 Chevrolet van,  brightly painted and
decorated,  the supplies and equipment to set up
a spay/neuter clinic in an existing building
within a community.  The goal is to place the
entire clinic within the community expressly to
encourage the participation and involvement of
the entire community. ”
That first visit is Phase 1 of the Task
Force strategy:  a demonstration of the value and
process of sterilizing dogs and cats.
Phase 2 involves sending out Task Force
teams whose expenses are covered by the
community,  at rates of $300 for a vet for a day,
$80 for a veterinary technician,  and $625 for
the materials they will use.
In Phase 3,  the host community contracts
directly with the veterinary team who will
provide the clinic,  and as Atthowe put it,  “The
Task Force is out of the picture.”
A potential threat to the program,
Atthowe added,  would be replacement of the Task
Force at Phase 3 with another program funded by
outside grants.  This,  she explained,  could
erode the sense of local responsibility and
self-empowerment that the Task Force tries to
develop,  and would in effect keep dog and cat
sterilization among the Native American nations
on a “welfare” footing.
“In larger urban areas,”  said Jean
Atthowe’s husband Jack Atthowe in a recent
analytical report,  ” the immediate impact  [of a
Task Force visit] is about a 10% drop in animals
impounded and a 15% drop in animals destroyed.
In more compact areas such as the Native American
nations,  the impact is greater,  varying from a
20% to a 50% decrease in the numbers of animals
impounded and destroyed.  In almost all instances
there is a steady drop in animals impounded and
animals destroyed for one to two years after the
spay/neuter event.  The impact of additional
visits is to bring about a steady decrease in
animals impounded and animals destroyed,  to 70%
to 75% below what occurred before the first Task
Force visit.  In some cases,”  Jack Atthowe
added,  this steady decline over time might best
be accounted for by a change of attitudes toward
animals within the communityŠThe larger or longer
the spay/neuter event,  or the smaller the
community,  the greater was the likelihood of change.”
The Task Force sterilized a record 4,000
animals in 2002,  and hopes to do as many in 2003
if an adequate budget can be raised to hire vets,
maintain equipment,  and keep the old van on the
road.
Foundation support and private donations
have not kept pace with the recent rapid growth
of the Task Force mission,  which coincided with
the economic slump afflicting the U.S. since the
high-tech stock crash of 2000-2001.  The crash
hit the humane sector hard even before the
post-9/11 stock market slide because many humane
organizations were heavily invested in high tech
as a non-animal-using branch of industry.
[Contact the Montana Spay/Neuter Task
Force c/o P.O. Box 701,  Victor,  MT  59875;
406-777-2644.]

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