By Patrick McCallister
For Hometown News
The numbers suggest the Pet Vet Cruiser is working.
Animal Control told the Volusia County Council on Dec. 6 that it took about 1,300 fewer animals to local shelters in fiscal year 2011-2012 than in 2006-2007.
The only big difference between the years is the county's mobile spay-and-neuter clinic. Sergio Pacheco, field operations supervisor, said the number of animal impoundments has consistently dropped since the spay-and-neuter clinic started five years ago.
"We're hoping to see the trend continue as a downward spiral of animals we're picking up and seeing more on the (Pet Vet Cruiser)," he said in an interview.
The council approved plans to buy the mobile clinic in 2007. The Pet Vet Cruiser started taking appointments on Sept. 4 that year. At the time, the county was paying about $250,000 a year to impound animals at area shelters.
In the clinic's first full fiscal year, 2007-2008, it did 2,062 surgeries. Last fiscal year, it did 2,396. In 2006-2007, animal-control officers impounded 4,928 dogs and cats. Last fiscal year, 3,620.
The county got the mobile animal clinic for a bargain -- $100,000. The Daytona Beach Dog Fanciers paid for half of it. Another local animal-welfare organization had purchased the mobile clinic, but decided to sell it to the county.
Becky Wilson, animal control director, predicted in 2007 the Pet Vet Cruiser would be a break-even operation. The win would be reducing the county's unwanted animal population.
The county had offered $42 rebates for spaying and neutering from 1987 until the middle of 2006. That program was open to any who applied. About 35,000 took advantage of the offer. However, in a 2007 interview, Ms. Wilson said the rebate program's shortcoming was people had to pay for the spaying or neutering, then wait for a county reimbursement. She said many couldn't afford the delay and those who could often didn't need the assistance.
The Pet Vet Cruiser, however, is based on income.
"It's on a sliding scale, similar to school lunches for children," Mr. Pacheco said. "It can cost as little as $15."
He said the mobile clinic seems to have another advantage -- it's a moving billboard.
"The visibility of getting people to understand spaying and neutering is the way to go," Mr. Pacheco said.
The council budgeted about $224,000 for the Pet Vet Cruiser this year. In addition to charging moderate fees, the county gets money from some cities so their residents can use the service.
DeLand, for example, has for the past few years paid the county up to $5,000 annually for allowing its residents to get spaying and neutering done on the mobile clinic. The city covers the difference between what a resident pays to spay or neuter an animal and $60. County spokesperson Dave Byron said DeLand usually pays $45 an animal, since most participating residents qualify for the lowest pricing, $15 an animal.
Mr. Pacheco said the county picks up animals in unincorporated areas and DeBary. It transports them to the Halifax Humane Society in Daytona Beach, and to the Southeast Volusia Humane Society, New Smyrna Beach. It costs the county $85 to take a dog or cat to either, unless its owner reclaims the animal.
For information about the Pet Vet Cruiser, visit volusia.org/services/public-protection/animal-control/pet-vet-cruiser.