Veterinarian Passionate About Solving Pet Overpopulation

PetSmart Charities grants bring more resources to San Antonio

Veterinarian with patient at mobile clinicDr. Mary Kate Lawler has spayed or neutered tens of thousands of cats and dogs over the last 20 years.

She has performed 10,000 spay/neuter surgeries in places like India, Mexico, Ecuador and even on the Galapagos Islands, where she saw stray dogs chasing marine iguanas along the beaches.

Over the last 10 years, she and her team have performed 70,000 surgeries at Spay-Neuter Assistance Program (SNAP) San Antonio.

In 2005, it might have been hard to imagine SNAP San Antonio reaching such impressive spay/neuter numbers. “There was a huge overpopulation problem going on here and not much work being done to change it,” Dr. Lawler said.

Back then, San Antonio had only 1 full-time spay/neuter clinic and 2 part-time clinics for a city of 1.2 million people. Dr. Lawler was the medical director for SNAP San Antonio at the time, and recalled fixing only 100 pets per week on the mobile clinic.

“That was not enough to make a difference,” said Dr. Lawler.

Clinic expands to reach more pet owners

Passionate about solving pet overpopulation, Dr. Lawler was determined to contribute to the community’s growing interest in saving more lives.

In 2006, the City of San Antonio passed an Animal Care Strategic Plan. In addition to other improvements, the plan called for more spay/neuter services in the community.

Eager to add services, SNAP San Antonio planned for its expansion. In 2008, the group used a $148,000 PetSmart Charities® equipment grant to open a stationary clinic in San Antonio that would increase the number of spay/neuter surgeries the team could perform. Under Dr. Lawler’s leadership, they fixed more than 9,100 cats and dogs that first year.

Today, SNAP San Antonio fixes more than 13,000 pets annually between the stationary clinic and mobile clinic, which continues to set up in local grocery store parking lots.

New program brings spay/neuter curbside

When she was promoted to SNAP’s executive director, Dr. Lawler began exploring new ways to bring spay/neuter services to pet parents. PetSmart Charities grants would help to provide free spay/neuter services where people needed them most.

She envisioned the mobile clinic pulling directly into neighborhoods where free services to the public “would be most useful,” she said. If neighborhood volunteers promoted the mobile clinics in advance, pet parents would be ready to get their pets fixed when the mobile clinic pulled onto their streets.

Veterinarian in front of mobile clinicWhen Rebecca Rangel, manager of the McMullen Mobile Home Park, brought free-roaming cats to SNAP San Antonio’s facility to get fixed, the staff told her that her whole neighborhood qualified for free spay/neuter services. Dr. Lawler offered to bring the mobile clinic to Rebecca’s street if she would promote the program with her neighbors.

Rebecca jumped at the chance to help. “We have too many pets who are roaming around and a lot of them are starving,” she said. “We have a big need inside this park.”

By the time SNAP San Antonio’s mobile clinic pulled into the neighborhood, Rebecca had residents lined up to greet Dr. Lawler. Many were ready to sign up their pets for spay/neuter surgery.

“The residents are very positive,” Dr. Lawler said. “By bringing our mobile vehicle specifically to an area that we’re trying to hit, we’re able to really interact with the residents that we’re targeting.”

Fixing pets saves lives and improves communities

Dr. Lawler knows spaying and neutering save lives, but she’s also aware of the impact these free clinics have on building better and safer neighborhoods in San Antonio.

“Look around this neighborhood,” she said. “There are free-roaming cats running around everywhere and dogs who belong to people roaming on the street. They’re not fixed and are contributing to the problem. But you also see how many people are getting their pets fixed this morning. These people want a neighborhood free of stray pets. They will influence their neighbors who haven’t quite come around yet.”

Dr. Lawler plans to bring mobile clinics to more neighborhoods in San Antonio. “We’ll make multiple visits in each neighborhood until all the pets are fixed,” said Dr. Lawler. “I think this program is going to help a lot more pets and people in San Antonio.”

As a veterinarian, Dr. Lawler has already completed an impressive amount of work. One can only imagine what she’ll accomplish next as SNAP’s executive director.

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