A modified box truck will remove barriers to spaying and neutering pets in Peoria County
With a growing animal overpopulation issue and no space to add surgical tables, Peoria County Animal Protection Services are turning to an unconventional spay and neuter solution: a box truck.
Any given morning at PCAPS, you can take a walk through the adoption center and hear the barks of dogs like Fenway, a six-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever, or Hugo, an American Bulldog just shy of two-years-old. These animals are ready to leave for loving forever homes, but one medical procedure can be a barrier: spaying and neutering.
Director Becky Spencer says the current model is a contract with the Peoria County Veterinary Medical Association. When an animal is chosen for adoption, it can take more than a week to get the procedure scheduled. The nearest alternative, low cost options are in Springfield and Champaign.
‘They’re just struggling to keep up with our volume,” said Spencer. “And so we’ve been kind of working for an alternative way to do this.”
The alternative way they settled on? A box truck made by M & R Specialty Trailers and Trucks from Florida to serve as a surgical suite on wheels. Though the first ever Peoria County Mobile Spay and Neuter Clinic won't be hitting the road, at least initially, Spencer believes the on-site service and proactive procedures will help speed up adoption.
“We really see the effects of the overpopulation problem,” said Spencer. “You can walk through our kennels right now and available for adoption are several pit bulls, several cats. All of those guys are really overpopulated and there’s more of them than we can find homes for here in Peoria County. So we’re really excited this program will help us make a dent in that.”
Dr. Justin Brown of Brown Animal Hospital is contracted to provide veterinary services for the mobile clinic. He says spaying and neutering is an excellent way to stem overpopulation in general.
“I think a lot of people are surprised to find out how prolific these little dogs and cats, in particular, can be,” he said. “You know, a cat can have multiple litters a year, she can also have anywhere from three to nine in a litter. So the growth of the population is exponential.”
If left unchecked, Brown says the exponential growth can lead to more consequences beyond crowded shelters.
“It’s also an ecological concern,” he said. “Because a cat, a cat’s a predator. They’re hard on birds and other local wildlife, so it’s a very important thing to do.”
Stray animals can also carry disease and being outside and on the street at all times isn't safe for the animals themselves.
As Brown points out, spaying or neutering an animal is a major surgical procedure, but the truck will be outfitted with everything vets need.
“My understanding is, when it’s finished, we’re going to have two surgery tables,” he said. “We’re going to have what we call a wet table, which is an area where we have, obviously, running water. We’ll have cage banks, which is where we’ll have animals recovering where we can see them. We’ll have full power and all of that.”
Though Brown Animal Hospital is taking care of the veterinary services for the mobile clinic, Dr. Brown still has a full slate of patients, so he won't be performing the majority of the surgeries himself.
“I’ll kind of oversee it,” he said. “We’re going to have a doctor by the name of Kenny Davis, who is semi-retired, who is going to come do it. He’s got 30 years plus experience. He’s an animal-lover and a fine person, a fine veterinarian. He’s going to do a really good job down there for them.”
This program also comes at a time when a timely vet appointment can be difficult to find. Spencer doesn't expect an immediate impact on the broader veterinary community, but says it's possible as more spay and neuter procedures are taken care of onsite at PCAPS.
“This program is really about spay/neuter, with shelter animals being first and removing barriers to spay/neuter for the community,” she said. “But if that takes the pressure off of our local veterinary community, that will be a great side effect.”
It takes a lot of funding to make this possible, Spencer says the total cost of the program is around $350,000. This includes the truck manufacturing, as well as the surgical tools and miscellaneous considerations necessary to run a spay/neuter clinic.
The Peoria County board voted unanimously last week to accept a low bid of $338,102 from M&R Specialty Trucks and Trailers. Funding comes from $200,000 earmarked for the capital project by the county in PCAPS annual budget, a $50,000 grant from the Best Friends Animal Society, a $25,000 from the Peoria Humane Society and a $250 grant from the Walmart Community Grants Team.
Peoria County Public Safety Commission Chair Jennifer Groves-Allison says the remainder will come from donations, bequests and miscellaneous leftover PCAPS funds approved by the County Board for special projects like this one.
Groves-Allison says the program should result in savings for taxpayers and Spencer says it’s a cost that’s well worth it to increase services at PCAPS, lower the stray population and make it easier to help a furry friend find a home with a new forever family in just one day.
“Whatever’s preventing people from spaying and neutering now, whether it’s transportation, or cost or availability,” she said. “The goal is to remove some barriers to get more animals spayed and neutered.”
Spencer says the purchase order is out to the manufacturers for the box truck, they hope to have it parked at PCAPS and operational by late August, early September.
She says they could perform more than 10 spay/neuter procedures a day.
If you’re considering adopting, it’s about to be easier than ever and you can meet some more of PCAPS adoptable animals here.