For Yvonne Riley, the Cat Team coordinator at Centre County PAWS, seeing cats come into the shelter hungry and sick is hard emotionally.
But if more people spayed and neutered their pets, she said they would see less sick pets coming into the program from the street.
Riley said it is a benefit to the community that PAWS is expanding their Spay and Neuter Assistance Program to help the pet overpopulation problem in the county.
PAWS, a local animal shelter that is committed to finding permanent homes for cats and dogs, also offers vouchers to pet owners that live, work or go to school in the county and cannot afford to spay or neuter their pets, Shelter Supervisor Lisa Bahr said.
The voucher can be taken to veterinarians to help cover the cost of the procedure and has helped pet owners alter more than 750 cats and dogs this year, Bahr said.
This program is expanding so that the vouchers will cover most, if not all, of the cost of the procedure and are available to more residents, Bahr said.
The vouchers are given on an income level basis, but the shelter relies on the honor system so that anyone who might be on the border line of the income level doesn’t have to feel like they can’t get help, Bahr said.
“Even though Centre County is considered more of an affluent county, we still have a problem with pet over-population, and the only way to be proactive about it is to spay and neuter,” Bahr said.
The program is also expanding so their clinics are available to residents throughout the state, Bahr said. This will allow residents in surrounding counties to bring in their pets to PAWS to get assistance, she said.
PAWS is running a campaign to raise money to help pay for the expansion of the program and is half way to its goal, Bahr said.
It is trying to raise $10,000 for the program and received a pledge from Stone Valley Pet Lodge to match the first $5,000. Stone Valley Pet Lodge owner Jackie Petsu said she and her staff feel that PAWS and the SNAP program are important to the county and hope to encourage others to donate.
“I myself have seen the face of death on animals coming off the street because they were abandoned,” Petsu said. “ Spaying and neutering can help lesson the suffering.”
State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham said she feels there is a problem with pet over-population in the area, especially with cats that are left behind when students move on.
“Unfortunately, especially toward the end of the semesters and summer, people have adopted cats over the year and then can’t take them as they move away,” Goreham said. “They get left behind and become feral.”
She said that the PAWS program helps limit the number of feral –– or wild –– cats in the borough because once left behind, those cats can have multiple litters if they are not fixed.
Riley said that it is important for all residents to spay and neuter their pets, because pets can get outside and, eventually, residents may have a liter of unwanted pets.
“Students can do an awful lot to help the problem,” she said. “If they have pets, they can bring them in to get spayed or neutered, or if they see an abandoned pet outside, they can capture them and bring them in to get spayed or neutered.”