“Hello, I got this number from the sign …”

“My name is … I’m calling about the spaying and neutering …”

“… I signed up and no one has called me yet …”

“… I signed up and now my cat is in heat …”

“Hello, my name is ... I have all these cats coming to my house! Can someone help me?”

These kinds of calls come in day after day from people who need help spaying or neutering their pets or the community cats they support. FOTAS has been trying to meet this demand, and still rally the community behind “The Year of the Shelter 2013” and the need for donations to “Fit, Furnish and Finish” our new County Shelter. Both are essential needs.

Aiken County is building a new Animal Shelter, due to open this winter. It will be a happy healthy place, appropriate to the current demands on County Animal Services. But if we do not continue to build on spay/neuter assistance programs, the new shelter can easily deteriorate into a bigger version of the old overcrowding problem and the stress, disease and death that accompany it.

In the spring of 2012, FOTAS entered a walk competition and fundraiser in Columbia and won. The result was not just nearly 100 free spay neuters for Wagener pets, but the beginning of a major FOTAS initiative called “SNAP,” the Spay/Neuter Assistance Program.

When the money in Columbia ran out, the old Aiken SPCA, now the Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare, stepped in and provided the remaining surgeries on the list with a $15 co-pay. They understood that FOTAS was currently committed to raising funds for the new shelter. This was the beginning of a win-win partnership that will be at the heart of the success of both new facilities for the foreseeable future.

FOTAS’ SNAP is currently working with Aiken County Animal Control, and strategically located towns, to provide targeted spay/neuter assistance. Already the mayors of Wagener, Burnettown and Windsor are on board, and we look forward to others joining up. The program offers eligible pet owners a place to enroll, transportation to and from the Albrecht Center’s new high-capacity spay/neuter clinic from targeted sites, and the surgery, rabies vaccine and a microchip, all for a $20 co-pay.

Here’s where the $10,500 comes in. The figure represents the average cost to spay and neuter 50 dogs and 50 cats at the Albrecht Center’s high-capacity clinic. Here’s the grand plan. Next Saturday, Sept. 21 the SPCA Albrecht Center is hosting a major fundraiser that offers another opportunity for FOTAS’ SNAP to compete for funds. Our goal is $10,500!

The Albrecht Center has agreed to apply every dollar contributed to FOTAS’ SNAP. We need your help to reach our $10,500 goal. Every $5, $10, $25 can get us there, if we all chip in.

To contribute, visit www.crowdrise.com/fotassnap, mail a check (must arrive by Sept. 21 to count) to FOTAS SNAP at P.O. Box 2207 Aiken 29802; or form a team under FOTAS and be a star.

FOTAS volunteers work with the Aiken County Animal Shelter, 411 Wire Road. For more information, email info@fotasaiken.org or visit www.fotasaiken.org.

A retired organizational problem-solver and radical educator, Joya Jiménez DiStefano is an artist, Servant Leader, and co-founder of FOTAS, Inc.

Aiken County Animal Shelter: “By the Numbers”

Public Animal Control Numbers

Aiken City & Aiken County FY’13

City of Aiken Aiken County

Dogs Cats Animals

Impounded 347 236 4,794

RTO* 137 4 219

Transferred/ Adopted 89 58 783/798

Euthanized 93 175 3,415