Last week, you learned about how animals arrive in shelters; most of which are already overcrowded to begin with.

The new SPCA facility will help with some of the problem by adopting out and spaying or neutering many more animals then we currently do, but there is work left to be done.

Outreach is a key for any animal welfare organization to solve the pet overpopulation problem. Getting out where the pets and their owners live is a key ingredient to the prevention programs we support.

The Aiken SPCA is pursuing grants for a strategy that has proven effective in a variety of communities all around the country; targeted spay and neuter programs.

The reasoning behind targeted spay and neuter is not simply to throw money at the problem, but to use those scarce resources in the most effective way.

What foundations that fund these programs look at are utilizing data to provide spay and neuter services in the most needed areas of a community, rather than just offer it to the first people who walk through the door.

The first step is to look at the data we already have. For example, we can plot on a map exactly where every stray dog or cat was picked up by animal control officers or by a Good Samaritan who saw an animal that was lost.

We also sort it out by the numbers of intact males found in an area, pregnant females, kittens and puppies. Trends show up when you study the data.

Now we know where the need is the greatest.

It may be a particular Zip code, a neighborhood, even down to a mobile home park with a big problem. Once we secure the funding, the next step is to conduct effective outreach to make a difference.

Outreach can be as simple as putting up flyers promoting low-cost spay and neuter in these communities in local stores, churches, public areas, etc.

Ads in local papers can work, too.

We also like to host pet fairs where we offer a variety of services for pets (rabies shots, nail trimming, heartworm testing and more).

When the folks arrive with their pets, we can also talk to them about spay and neuter and even include transportation for those who canít make the drive to our clinic.

We also rely heavily on our knowledgeable volunteers for outreach.

Some will even go door to door in a neighborhood, individually inviting every pet owner to our fair to learn how they can help their dogs or cats.

Veterinarians donate their time to examine the animals that show up and to talk to their owners about the advantages of spay and neuter and the importance of routine medical care for their pets.

These programs work well for owned pets, but what about strays people see running around in these areas?

Local animal control staff members can certainly come out and set traps to catch them, although they canít guarantee each stray will be adopted.

However, if those animals are intact and ignored, they will reproduce sooner or later, adding to the overpopulation problems.

An alternative that works with cats is trap, neuter and release. There are local volunteers who can help people trap cats, have them spayed or neutered at our clinic and then put them back where they were found.

Now, a good-hearted citizen who doesnít mind feeding some cats, but doesnít want a yard full of kittens, can do so without that worry.

Local shelters are all busy working as hard as they can to care for the animals they have on site each day.

We will utilize targeted spay/neuter, outreach and education to slow down the intake each of these shelters face.

To learn how you can help, call SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfareat 648-6863.