The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Thirty pets got free sterilization in Copper Center

Friends of the Valdez Animal Shelter brought mobile clinic to area


Photo courtesy Joan Heikens

Board members of the Friends of the Valdez Animal Shelter went into full swing last week, sponsoring a free spay and neutering clinic in Copper Center for pets, such as these long-haired rag muffins.

The Friends of the Valdez Animal Shelter (FVAS) had been planning to hold a much-needed mobile clinic to spay and neuter dogs and cats in the Copper Basin for a long time. The need was there, but just how much it was needed came to light last weekend when 30 dogs and cats received free sterilization surgeries courtesy of the group.

“We did 30 animals,” Joan Heikens, the group’s president said in an interview Monday. Nineteen dogs and “the rest were cats.”

The need for affordable and easily accessible routine veterinary care is acute in the area; the animal shelter in Valdez routinely takes in large numbers of kittens and puppies from the area. In some instances, the group has paid to have “serial mothers” spayed because the cost of the operation is less expensive than housing, feeding and then paying to spay or neuter the offspring of these pets.

“This is definitely making a difference,” Heikens said.

There is no animal shelter or animal control services in any of the small but vast communities of the sprawling area.

The board of directors of the group approved payment to contract with the Anchorage-based Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to pull its mobile surgical truck out of the mothball fleet to bring this service to Copper Center. The group, along with other friends, volunteers and boosters, were on hand to take in pets, act as nurses and generally ran the non-surgical portion of the three-day clinic, which ran Friday through Sunday.

“We had almost all our board there to help,” Heikens said, plus an additional volunteer or two. “Kim Neill pulled all this together for us.”

For some pets, the clinic came a little too late according to Heikens.

She said a number of pets were brought in that were not only already pregnant, but close to delivering new litters of puppies and kittens – too close for the mothers-to-be to undergo the surgery.

The operations were offered free of charge, though donations were be greatly appreciated according to board member Wendy Goldstein.

The SPCAs mobile clinic had been sitting in the mothballs according to Heikens, and only one member of the surgical team had actually participated in a remote Alaska-style clinic.

So, the clinic was indeed an experiment, but one that went well considering it was manned by a crew that was green at best.

Photo courtesy Joan Heikens

Former Valdez ACO Shana Anderson volunteered to help with the Copper Basin spaying clinic.

She also praised the SPCA vets that performed the operations, noting they also administered occasional extra services while sterilizing the pets.

“They gave rabies shots free to anything they spayed or neutered,” she said.

The total cost of the venture was still being tallied Monday according to Heikens, but basic costs such as the price of the mobile clinic ($2,500) and fuel ($400) tallied less than $5,000.

The group had originally aimed to provide the service to 50 dogs and cats, but feel good about the 30 that received the operations. And they are already planning a second clinic, hopefully for early August.

“We were booked up so far and we have a list for next time,” Heikens said. “We could up the ante and do more.”


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