An informational meeting Oct. 24 at Atwater Neighborhood City Hall drew more than 100 people interested in free spay or neuter surgery for their pets.
After listening to a session on pet care and city laws pertaining to pets, many walked away with a surgery appointment and others took home vouchers for the surgery that can be used within 90 days.
The Kansas Humane Society and Spay-Neuter Kansas, which are partnering with the city of Wichita in the program, scheduled a total of about 60 surgeries, and a second meeting is scheduled for Nov. 7 at Colvin Neighborhood City Hall.
The city is using $55,000 in federal grant money — available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — to provide the free surgeries for people who meet low-income guidelines.
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The goal is to spay or neuter 800 dogs and cats and "help reduce preventable euthanasia of unwanted pets," said Don Henry, the city's environmental services manager.
Besides the free surgeries, qualifying applicants will receive free rabies vaccinations, dog licenses and microchips for their pets.
In one of three sessions on Oct. 24, Dennis Graves, supervisor of animal services for the city, recited some of the benefits of getting pets spayed and neutered.
"They live longer and are happier to be at home with you," Graves said. "They don't roam as much, and they don't end up at my shelter. They're generally better pets."
Graves and Ellen Querner of Spay-Neuter Kansas offered basic pet care tips, from providing adequate food, water and shelter to recommended vaccinations.
Graves also covered some ordinances that pet owners need to know about, including one limiting tethering of dogs and another prohibiting the feeding of cats outdoors.
For owners of pit bulls, Graves said the city is going to start "actively enforcing" new laws pertaining to the breed.
Effective July 1, Wichitans are allowed to own no more than two pit bulls, and those dogs must be spayed or neutered, licensed, vaccinated against rabies and microchipped.
Linda Thurman and Hilda Duenas came to the meeting with the goal of getting their male pit bulls neutered.
Thompson said her dog frequently gets out of her yard, and although he's not aggressive, "It's not right for my neighbors to have to tolerate that," she said.
"I'm hoping the neutering calms him down."
Thurman said the program was "good timing" for her because she has been unemployed for two months.
Without the free offer, "We would have had to tighten our belts and do it either way," she said.
At the end of the day, veterinarian Michelle Townsley of the Humane Society had scheduled about 30 spay and neuter surgeries.
"I think this is a step toward a solution to the ongoing problem" of too many dogs and cats, Townsley said.
These statistics came from the informational session: In 2008, 26,000 animals were taken in by Wichita Animal Services and the Kansas Humane Society. Of those, 41 percent were reclaimed or adopted; 59 percent were euthanized.
The Humane Society has "a ton of animals" and took in more than 900 cats in September, said Jennifer Campbell, director of communications.
"There is a huge pet overpopulation problem in the city," she said. "Anything that can be done to help combat that is great.
"A program like this is so important to help end euthanasia."
Pam Robertson was one of about 25 people who scheduled an appointment with Spay-Neuter Kansas to have her pets spayed.
"I'm on disability, but my dogs are very important," Robertson said. She has two Cairn terriers and doesn't want any more, she said.
"This is a great program. I wish there were more people here today," said Robertson, who said she'd been telling neighbors and friends about it, "people with a lot of cats and kittens who are out of work."
Robertson said she went to the first meeting because "I was afraid they'd run out of money," something organizers said they didn't think would happen.
She said she was particularly glad to hear that the program was being paid for out of federal stimulus money.
"It's trickling down to people, finally," she said.
If you go
What: Information about free spaying and neutering of pets for low-income residents
Where: Colvin Neighborhood City Hall, 2820 S. Roosevelt, 316-303-8029
When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 7
What to bring
1. Proof of current address
2. Social Security number and date of birth for everyone in household
3. Proof of last three months of income
In a three-month period, household income cannot exceed:
1 person in family — $5,415
2 people in family — $7,285
3 people in family — $9,155
4 people in family — $11,025
5 people in family — $12,895
6 people in family — $14,765
7 people in family — $16,635
8 people in family — $18,505