Before 1970, 20 million companion pets were euthanized annually in shelters across the United States. Today, that number is less than 6 million. A mindset shift is largely responsible. When pet owners are proactive about preventing births, far fewer animals end up in crowded shelters, meaning far fewer are euthanized.


Typically, our Northern friends are more forward thinking in this area than we Southerners tend to be. It’s not uncommon for New England transplants to say “I just can’t believe how many animals are running loose in the streets in Aiken” or “I’m so depressed by the number of animals being put down in Aiken County.”


Still, there has been vast improvement in sterilization and, subsequently, a decline in euthanasia in the South. Take Asheville, N.C., for instance. The Asheville Humane Alliance Spay and Neuter Clinic opened in 1994. Since then, there has been an almost 80 percent decline in euthanasia within a 60-mile radius of the clinic.


Asheville Humane Alliance not only performs 35,000 sterilizations a year, they teach shelters to follow their model of high volume, affordable procedures including ergonomic surgeries, transport, marketing, and funding operations. To date, there are more than 115 Humane Alliance clinics, including the SPCA’s Carl and Linda Strojan Spay and Neuter Clinic. In total, these clinics sterilize more than 700,000 companion animals annually.


The Humane Alliance model has drawn support from 40 animal welfare partners and some Southern celebrities, too. NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Ryan Newman set up a foundation to help clinics like the SPCA perform sterilization surgeries at affordable prices. According to his website, www.ryannewmanfoundation.org, consideration for grant funding is “limited to 501 (c) 3 tax-exempt organizations focusing on low cost spay/neuter clinics through the Humane Alliance.”


So, how affordable is “affordable” and what programs are available?


Currently, Aiken County residents can apply for vouchers at the Aiken County Shelter located at 411 Wire Road. These vouchers are based on income and are limited to one per household. Recipients can bring vouchers to the SPCA, pay the $15 copay, and set up an appointment for surgery. Surgeries under this program include a rabies shot and a microchip.


City of Aiken residents can apply for vouchers, pay for surgery (fees starting at $15 depending on species, sex, and owner income), and set up an appointment all at the SPCA located at 199 Willow Run Road. There is no limit to the number of vouchers a family can use, but there are only about 300 left for this fiscal year, and the program runs first come, first serve. Depending on qualification, these vouchers include a rabies shot, microchip, and city registration.


Beginning in July, the No More Homeless Pets license tag program will have vouchers available for SC state residents. Recipients of these $15 vouchers must prove governmental assistance. This program includes spay or neuter surgery and a rabies shot.


Regular cost surgeries without grant or municipal subsidies are as follows: male cats: $35; female cats: $50; male dogs: $60; female dogs: $70. Rabies vaccinations and microchips are available for $10 and $20, respectively. Vaccinations and microchipping are available at the SPCA Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. without an appointment. Call our clinic at 803-648-6863 to schedule surgery.


Additionally, the SPCA loans traps to people who want to spay or neuter free-roaming cats. Borrow a trap for up to three days in exchange for a $35 refundable deposit. Traps returned empty will be charged $5 per day. Otherwise, the deposit may be used toward surgery, rabies shot and mandatory ear-tipping of a feral cat. Normal cost for these procedures is just $40 but may be less if assistance is available.


The SPCA is not an emergency clinic and does not offer 24 hour emergency or urgent pet care. We encourage regular wellness checkups and will be happy to provide a list of veterinarians in the area. If you need further information or would like to make a donation to supplement affordable surgeries, call us at 803-648-6863 or email development@LetLoveLive.org.