Dr. Becky Birchmeier performs a neuter surgery at Coalition: HUMANnE. Since the Tacoma-based clinic opened some three years ago, their veterinarians have performed more that 15,000 spay and neuter operations.
SCOTT TURNER | GIG HARBOR LIFE
Holly Bukes, clinic immediate past president, said that Coalition: HUMAnE's goal is remove barriers that prevent people from spaying and neutering their pets.
SCOTT TURNER | GIG HARBOR LIFE
A row of cats rest in heating pads after their operations.
GIG HARBOR — Pet overpopulation is an ongoing problem, and within seven years, the small grassroots non-profit organization called Peninsula Spay/Neuter Project has facilitated more than 10,000 surgeries for pets.
Holly Bukes founded that organization, which has become Coalition: HUMAnE, a non-profit spay and neuter clinic that is high quality, high volume and affordable.
Bukes, a Gig Harbor resident, is the immediate past president, and serves in that position on the board. Coalition: HUMAnE opened its own clinic in Tacoma three years ago and has provided 15,000 pet surgeries, she said.
“We were trying to find something that was centrally located and a population base that was easy to get to from the freeway system, and that was along the bus route, and a place that could be renovated into a veterinary hospital basically,” Bukes said.
They are leasing a building in Tacoma.
Educating the public about pet overpopulation is not enough, she said. They want to give every pet owner the opportunity to be a responsible pet owner. Bukes said to spay and neuter is the solution, and while adoption is the best way to get a pet, she said it isn’t going to solve the problem of pet overpopulation.
“Our goal is to basically remove barriers that prevent people from spaying and neutering their pets,” Bukes said. “People who are financially challenged, they love their pets, but they just don’t have the resources. They have many other priorities that are more important than getting their pet spayed or neutered in terms of money.”
Last year alone there were 2,000 healthy adoptable cats euthanized in Pierce County. That’s why Bukes has a passion for her work.
Coalition: HUMAnE expects to serve 12,000 clients this year, and serves clients from any county in the state, but primarily Pierce and Kitsap counties. Though low-income pet owners utilize the services of the clinic, it is open to everyone and does not place restrictions on its services, nor does it skimp on the quality of medicine or veterinarians, she said.
This month the clinic will take over all surgeries for the Humane Society of Tacoma and Pierce County, said executive director of Coalition: HUMAnE Lorrie Kalmbach-Ehlers.
By forming a coalition with other animal welfare organizations, money was raised to open the clinic and serve more pet owners.
Costs for spay and neuter surgeries are kept low, with a cat neuter at $35 and spay at $45, dog neuters start at $62 and spays at $67 with the highest cost of $125 for a female dog weighing more than 100 pounds.
Kalmbach-Ehlers said there are special programs through Coalition: HUMAnE that drop the cost even more.
“So we will offer spays and neuters for anywhere from nothing to a $10 co-pay for other individuals throughout the year. We do some fundraising for those,” Kalmbach-Ehlers said.
By forming the coalition, the organization became a quality clinic, she said. There are two doctors on staff full time who average 58 to 60 surgeries every day, making it the ideal place for the surgeries.
“A lot of people understand it better this way, that if you’re going to get a heart surgery go to a heart surgeon. If you are going to spay and neuter your pet you should come here because our surgeons are experts in the field. They do 58 to 60 of them a day. That’s who you want doing that surgery for your pet,” she said.
Bukes said it was necessary to re-organize and change the way they were serving clients. Some of the private veterinarians were requiring clients to get shots for their pets that they couldn’t afford, Bukes said. So in 2007 the board decided to raise $200,000 to open its own clinic.
“I think there were five employees when we started up on March 3, 2008. We became Coalition:HUMAnE,” she said.
“We found an organization in North Carolina called HUMANE Alliance and they act as a mentor organization toward organizations that want to start spay and neuter clinics,” she said. “So we applied to their program. We were accepted. Then we started working with them. They helped us design the layout of the clinic. They helped us train our staff and we raised our money and found a building and renovated the building.”
Staff from Coalition: HUMAnE traveled to North Carolina to receive training, and once the clinic opened, a veterinarian and two support staff from North Carolina worked with the staff in Tacoma.
Bukes said her passion for pets began in childhood, and she still sees that people aren’t fully aware of the overpopulation problem.
“So the pet over population is a community problem and it takes a community. It’s not the shelters’ responsibility to fix it. It’s everybody’s part,” she said.
An auction and dinner, Whiskers Wine and Dine, to benefit Coalition: HUMAnE will take place March 12 at the Sharon McGavick Conference Center at Clover Park Technical College. The organization is looking to buy a building and expand services.
“One of the things we’re looking to do is institute a transport program so that we’re able to take our vehicle out to areas where there may be transportation problems for people, and bring those animals into our clinic,” Kalmbach-Ehlers said.
Donations for the auction are welcome. Le Garmache in Port Orchard is catering the event.