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Tough to fix: Local animal shelters struggle to spay and neuter pets

Erin Gottsacker

The Oneida County Humane Society is packed with pets.

It houses roomfuls of kittens and dozens of dogs, with more animals coming in all the time.

“We have a shelter full right now,” says the Oneida County Humane Society’s director, Amanda Haydon. “We have been maintaining between 100 and 130 animals, which is more than previous years. Our kitten season has been almost all year long so far.”

To address an overpopulation of pets, humane societies like the one in Oneida County spay and neuter all of the animals that come into its care before placing them up for adoption.

But a Northwoods vet clinic that spayed and neutered pets at discounted prices closed earlier this summer because it couldn’t find a new veterinarian.

The closure has left local humane societies to face a problem that’s two-fold: they’re dealing with an overpopulation of pets, and they’re struggling to get those pets fixed before giving them up for adoption.

Fixing pets in northern Wisconsin used to be pretty easy. Humane societies across the region partnered with a clinic called The Fix Is In.

“For the last couple of years, The Fix Is In has really stepped up and been able to take in between 20 and 40 of our animals and get them spayed and neutered,” Haydon says. “The faster that we can get that done, the faster they can go into homes.”

But The Fix Is In closed in June. The clinic couldn’t find a replacement when its veterinarian left — a symptom of a nationwide veterinarian shortage.

Now, humane societies in the Northwoods have to rely on local veterinarians to spay and neuter their animals. But those vets are already busy caring for more animals in the aftermath of the pandemic pet boom.

This means getting animals at humane societies fixed is taking much longer. That slows down the adoption process so that pets end up staying at the shelter for longer periods of time.

Haydon says the Oneida County Humane Society is up for this challenge right now.

“We’re just going to have to pivot a little bit and get a little bit more creative, maybe utilize fosters more until the surgeries can be done,” she says.

But she worries what will happen as more Northwoods veterinarians retire and fewer come in to take their place.

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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