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From left, Niki Karger of Rockford, Minn., assists Erin Richards of Golden Valley, Minn., in administering a vaccination to a dog. The two veterinary technicians work for Minnesota Spay Neuter Assistance Program, which provided a fully-equipped veterinary clinic on wheels to deliver a two-day no cost/lost cost spay-neuter clinic at the Beltrami Humane Society. The clinic, which ends today, was offered to low-income pet owners in the Bemidji area. Pioneer Photo/Anne Williams

Beltrami Humane Society: Vet clinic on wheels brings animal care to low income families

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Beltrami Humane Society: Vet clinic on wheels brings animal care to low income families
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Since the city approved an ordinance to limit the number of cats and dogs allowed per household, Kit Belcher said a total of 12 animals have been dropped off in front of the Beltrami Humane Society.

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With the animal facility at its carrying capacity, Beltrami Humane Society Executive Director Belcher said she worries more homeless pets will be left to wander the streets. Fortunately, four organizations have teamed up to help pets and their owners.

Volunteers from Pet Haven Incorporated of Minnesota, a nonprofit pet shelter based in St. Paul, the Minnesota Spay Neuter Assistance Program, or MN SNAP, and Blue Sky Veterinary Services are completing a two-day low cost/no cost spay and neuter clinic today at the Beltrami Human Society.

MN SNAP provides a fully-equipped veterinary clinic on wheels to deliver spay and neuter services for animals belonging to shelters, rescues and low-income pet owners in Minnesota.

A clinic on wheels it can reach neighborhoods where cost, transportation or the absence of veterinary services prevents owners from giving their pets proper care and spay-neuter services.

Because the mobile clinic is only in town for two days, pet owners seeking treatment for their pets were required to apply ahead of time online through MN SNAP. Many of those approved for animal sterilization Belcher said, had yearly incomes of less than $13,000.

At the clinic, staff from MN SNAP admits each animal, collects fees (if any) and performs pre-operative physical exams. Animal patients are anesthetized and surgically sterilized, or given vaccinations and other treatments. All animals are discharged to their caretakers or back to their rescues or shelters the same day.

According to Belcher, pet owners should sterilize their pets to reduce the overpopulation of unwanted and homeless animals.

"If people aren't responsible enough to keep these pets, they're going to be on the streets, on our doorsteps, in trash cans or getting killed on the streets," Belcher said. "I'm really concerned about these animals. They need good homes; they need responsible people and care."

With regards to the city ordinance and the high animal drop-off rate at the humane society, Belcher said she hopes the community will help her find homes and treatment for these animals.

"We are trying to work with the community here," she said. "People have been freaking out throughout this process, but we are unable to accommodate animals being dropped off because we only have so many kennels."

Jessica Cardenas of St. Paul, a veterinary technician with MN SNAP, is helping at the Bemidji two-day spay and neuter clinic.

Cardenas said earlier this week the mobile clinic spent two days in Thief River Falls where they sterilized 56 cats.

"(Thursday) we sterilized 21 dogs and 16 cats. (Today) it will be about the same," Cardenas said.

To her, the most rewarding part of the job is giving animal care to people living in rural communities.

"A lot of smaller towns don't have have access to a surgical care facility," she said. "Some farmers cannot afford to have 15 farm cats sterilized. We're there to grant them that money. It's a great thing."

Belcher said at this point, with no more room to take in animals, it is up to the community to help get homeless animals off the street.

"We need the community to know these animals are their responsibility," she said. "Anyone who wants to step up and help us financially to buy medications, food and supplies can contact us anytime. We need help."

For more information about the Beltrami Humane Society and its efforts contact Belcher at 751-7910.

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