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Program offers low-cost spay, neutering services to shelters, rescues and low-income pet owners

Brie Dorcy, a veterinary technician, shaves the belly Tuesday of Sable, a chocolate Labrador, as she preps the dog to be spayed. Sable was operated on in the MN Spaymobile, a specially equipped recreational vehicle that travels to communities within a 2½-hour radius of Minneapolis to perform low-cost spay or neutering procedures. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

Sable, a chocolate Labrador, was unconscious as veterinarian technician Brie Dorcy shaved her belly. It's one of the final steps in preparing Sable to be spayed.

While the procedure is an everyday occurrence, the site is less common.

Sable was the first of dozens of pets to be spayed or neutered Tuesday in the MN Spaymobile, a specially equipped recreational vehicle parked next to the Hawk Creek Animal Shelter in Willmar.

From the preparation area, about where the kitchen would be in most RVs, Dorcy took Sable to one of two surgical tables in the rear of the vehicle.

There Dorcy helped Dr. Susan Spence into a surgical gown and Spence went to work on Sable.

The Spaymobile belongs to the Minneapolis-based Minnesota Spay Neuter Assistance Program.

Since April 2010, more than 12,000 procedures have been performed on the Spaymobile, Spence said.

The vehicle travels to communities up to 2½ hours from Minneapolis. The privately funded program offers low-cost spay and neutering services to shelters, rescues and low-income pet owners.

To qualify for the Spaymobile's services, pet owners must be receiving any of a variety of forms of government assistance or financially qualify in some other way.

"Low-income pet owners are most likely to not spay or neuter their animals and most likely to surrender their animals to shelters," Spence said.

And fewer animals in shelters means fewer that can't be placed in homes, which could change a grim situation described in a statement painted on the side of the Spaymobile.

The statement says, "90,000 homeless companion animals are unnecessarily killed in Minnesota every year due to pet overpopulation."

The Spaymobile will be returning to Willmar on Feb. 21 and, according to the Hawk Creek website, there are still openings for cats.

Gary Miller

Born and attended public schools in Willmar, Minn. Served 20 years in U.S. Navy as a photojournalist. Worked at West Central Tribune since retiring from the Navy in 1994.

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