Targeted Spay/Neuter Program Reduces Des Moines Cat Population

Animal Rescue League of Iowa’s team “beyond thrilled” with results

spayed catFounded in 1926, Animal Rescue League (ARL) of Iowa is a nonprofit shelter that took in 12,000 pets in 2012. ARL wanted to reduce the population of unwanted cats and kittens in the Des Moines, Iowa, area it serves. So, the group sought help from PetSmart Charities® in 2009.

The result was one of our most successful targeted grants in recent history.

Thorough approach puts spay/neuter within reach for cat lovers

ARL took a comprehensive approach to population control. First, the team evaluated their shelter intake, or the number of pets coming into the shelter. They identified the 3 ZIP codes that were the main sources of cats and kittens arriving at the shelter.

They created the targeted CatSnip program, which welcomed residents of those 3 ZIP codes to have their cats and kittens spayed or neutered free of charge. Spay/neuter surgery wasn’t the only procedure performed, either — patients were also microchipped and vaccinated.

CatSnip is a complete program that protects cats’ safety and well-being. ARL used the 2-pounds/2-months guideline, performing early-age spay/neuter surgeries whenever possible. The all-in-1-day procedure is simple: drop off your cat or kitten in the morning, then pick them up in the evening. ARL volunteers check in the patient, and then the veterinarian and medical staff perform the surgery, microchipping and vaccinations.

Significant decrease in cat intake at the shelter

It took a while to see a reduction in cat intake, but when it happened, it was dramatic. After 2 full years of CatSnip, the team tracked a significant decrease — even more than they expected.

gray catBetween 2010 and 2012, cat intake from the largest ZIP codes dropped 60%, from 3,344 to 1,386. In areas where ARL didn’t deploy its CatSnip program, intake dropped just 9%. In fact, 1 of the 3 targeted ZIP codes was so successful that it dropped out of the top 3.

The targeted ZIP codes’ success helped reduce cat euthanasia by 56% overall. It’s proof that the program works.

ARL’s program makes unusual impact on the community

Tom Colvin, executive director of ARL, believes the program has been successful for 2 reasons. First, offering no-cost services enabled residents to spay or neuter their pets when they would have been unable to consider the surgery otherwise.

Additionally, the community has grown to trust ARL. At first, many participants thought a “free” surgery was suspicious — surely there must be a catch or a hidden cost somewhere. Instead, ARL was able to educate people about the importance of altering cats and kittens.

Since then, those people have spread the word about the program and about the benefits of spay/neuter surgery. ARL couldn’t have purchased such valuable advertising with any amount of money.

ARL enjoys expansion and lasting results

The success of the CatSnip program opened doors to new programs when residents in other ZIP codes wanted ARL’s spay/neuter services for their pets too. ARL developed the Purr Project and DogSnip, which they offer to the public. The Purr Project reaches as far as rural farming communities.

Colvin traces all this expansion back to the PetSmart Charities targeted grant that got them started. “It is hard to fully express the impact this grant has had on our community, the ARL staff, the ARL board of directors, the ARL supporters and donors, and most importantly, the animals that we serve.”


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