Spay & neuter program in jeopardy

Norma Milton is the ‘halfway home’ pet rescue director. She has worked tirelessly at controlling the cat populations.

“It’s only been the last 2-3 years that I’ve seen improvement in Aroostook County.”

Milton attributes that to the programs in place to help with the cost of spay and neutering cats. One of those programs is ‘Help Fix me’, that helps low income families have their cat fixed at a lower cost.

“Every year they spay and neuter low income family pets to the tune of 25 hundred pets per year. That’s a lot of kittens that aren’t running around.”

Now there is a bill being put forth to eliminate the pet food surcharge currently placed on cat food. It’s estimated the cost each pet owning household pays is less than a dollar a year.

“Last year it amounted to 191 thousand dollars to the animal welfare budget, 100 thousand dollars of that amount was used for spay and neuter of low income families.”

The bill states it’s an act to reduce costs to businesses by Phasing Out the Pet Food Surcharge. Betsy Hallett is the central Aroostook Humane society manager. She says if this bill does pass this will have a domino effect on the community.

“We’re going to start taking in more, animal welfare and animal control officers are going to be spending far more of their time chasing down those feral cat colonies, catching them, taking care of those.”

The number of cats up for adoption has gone down drastically. Staff here say that’s mainly because of the help fix me program.

“I started February of 2001. At that time we were currently taking in roughly close to 1000 cats a year. Currently we are down just below the 500 mark.”

Animal welfare advocates and organizations are planning to come together to rally against this bill.

The public hearing for the bill will be held on Thursday, May 18 at 1 o’clock.