After many years of planning, the new SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare Regional Spay and Neuter clinic is set to open today. While adoptions are wonderful, we understand that high volume, high quality spay and neuter services are key to reducing intake at area animal shelters.


When I joined the SPCA in 2007, we performed 1,269 surgeries for the year. It has improved to 2,526 in 2012. While our little clinic on Wire Road chugged along for more than 30 years and performed well over 40,000 surgeries in those three decades, we needed to do more.


Our new clinic will have the capacity to increase our 2012 record number of surgeries from just over 2,500 to over 18,000 per year. We’ll soon go from one veterinarian four days per week, to two, working five days per week with their team, each utilizing two surgery tables.


We were blessed a few years back to be accepted into the Humane Alliance’s model clinic program (www.humanealliance.org). Their team trains clinics like ours all over the United States to have the most effective and safe high volume and high quality clinic possible. This involves training of everyone from the doctors to the paper-pushers like me.


The clinic will help achieve its goal of surgeries by offering transportation and reduced clinic prices to rescue groups throughout the CSRA; anywhere within 60 miles of our clinic. As always, we’ll still offer low cost surgeries to the general public, with our most expensive surgery only topping out at about $70.


Wew’ll continue to work with Aiken County, the cities of Aiken and North Augusta, and soon Edgefield County on performing their voucher program surgeries for their low-income citizens’ pets.


We’ll also be adding no-appointment necessary feral cat surgeries for trap-neuter-release (TNR) at $40 for males or females, including a rabies vaccination and ear tipping for that fee. We currently do about 400 surgeries like this annually and hope to prevent more wild stray cats from being born in the future.


We were blessed by individuals and businesses alike in building our clinic, just like the rest of our facility. Wendy O’Brien built the lobby, a separate entrance from our adoption center on our new campus at 199 Willow Run Road. Jane and Shepard Ellenberg built our cat ward, a place where cats can wait for surgery and wake up afterwards, away from the big dogs. The dog ward was graciously sponsored by Gus and Ann Schikedanz, giving them a great area to sleep off their big day.


Carl and Linda Strojan and the Cedar Hill Foundation donated our wonderful surgery center, complete with four heated and foldable surgery tables; drop down lighting, separate ventilation systems and large windows where school children, vet tech students and other visitors can observe our team in action.


PetSmart Charities awarded us over $90,000 in a competitive grant process to help furnish much of the equipment in the clinic, as well as to pay for the Humane Alliance training both here and at their Asheville, North Carolina clinic.


Now we have the wonderful clinic, certainly the nicest one I’ve ever toured. We have the equipment and the trained team.


The next challenge is to continue to fund raise to help subsidize the surgery costs for those who can’t afford them. Often, these folks have more than one pet and the expense of surgery is a deterrent for them getting the procedure. We have the facility and the transportation now, but raising money to help perform the surgeries is an ongoing effort.


If you would like to donate to the SPCA spay and neuter fund or schedule a surgery for your pet, you can visit us online at www.spca-albrecht.org, write us or visit us at 199 Willow Run Road in Aiken, SC 29801 or give us a call at 803-648-6863.


Gary Willoughby is the president and CEO of the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare.