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Traveling clinic provides low-cost spaying and neutering for cats across state

Roz Manwaring, executive director of Rozzie May Animal Alliance, moves two newly fixed cats from her mobile clinic to the pick up area inside the Osborne's Agway in Concord on October 31, 2012. The organization's mobile clinic travels 2-3 a week around the state to offer low-cost spay and neuter services. 

(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor Staff)

Roz Manwaring, executive director of Rozzie May Animal Alliance, moves two newly fixed cats from her mobile clinic to the pick up area inside the Osborne's Agway in Concord on October 31, 2012. The organization's mobile clinic travels 2-3 a week around the state to offer low-cost spay and neuter services. (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

A lifelong animal lover, Roz Manwaring has spent the past five years providing low-cost spaying and neutering for cats and dogs and educating owners on the problem of cat overpopulation.

Manwaring started the Rozzie May Animal Alliance, a nonprofit organization named after her mother, in 2007. For the next several years she traveled to locations from Berlin to Laconia with all of the necessary equipment and veterinarians in tow to provide low-cost spaying and neutering. In 2009, the organization established a clinic in Conway.

When business began to slow down, Manwaring decided the best way to continue her mission of preventing overpopulation would be to take her project on the road again. Earlier this year, with the help of donations and grants, the alliance purchased a van and is now a mobile operation once again. Manwaring travels across the state, from Concord to Gorham and even into western Maine, two days a week offering her clinic.

Cat overpopulation isn’t just a result of stray cats breeding, she said. Some cat owners may underestimate the frequency with which cats can reproduce and often don’t focus on neutering male cats. In addition to the medical aspect of the organization, a main goal of Manwaring’s is spreading awareness of the importance of spaying and neutering animals. Fifteen years ago, about 25 million cats were being euthanized per year, she said. That number is now down to 4 million, and Manwaring says the decline is largely due to more spaying and neutering.

The Monitor spoke with Manwaring about her business and her cause:

Why did you decide to start this business?

Spay and neuter has always been a thing of mine. You can build all the shelters you want but that isn’t turning the problem off at the source. Spay-neuter is the way to reduce the number of homeless and stray cats; it’s the only way to do it.

Why is cat overpopulation such an issue?

A female cat can have three litters a year; it’s amazing. So they’re not all just strays. Cats are so capable of reproducing and one thing people always say is ‘Let nature take its course.’ Well humans have changed that course, especially in places with a high number of restaurants with Dumpsters out back. We kind of enable these animals to exist and reproduce and reproduce.

How much does it cost, and how does that compare with other vets who offer these services?

The fee for a girl if you go across the state could be anywhere from $150 up to $300. For us it’s $75 with the rabies (shot), with a pill for flea protection. And we also do ear cleaning, nail trimming, those things. It’s like a day at the spa.

How do you fund the clinic to help keep it low cost?

I had some generous people donate. I have some grants that come in annually. Our fees cover a lot of it, but not (all of it) because we are so much less expensive. We made a commitment this year in February to buy this mobile unit and the reason we did that is we saw the numbers of cat surgeries declining dramatically, so we decided to go to the cats. Since this trailer arrived here in late May we’ve done 645 cats.

Who performs the services?

We have paid veterinarians. It is a traveling vet hospital, basically. The professional staff is very good and very professional and we try to maintain the highest standards possible. On board there is a doctor, two techs and then we have the most amazing volunteer who goes with us to every clinic and she does the registration and the paperwork. When the animals leave they’re going to have all the necessary paperwork. I’m one of the techs.

How do you get the word out?

A key to this is getting (to know) people in the area so I can email them fliers. Word is traveling, and we have people driving as far away as Massachusetts for our dog clinics. I do press releases as often as I can, and I look at the scheduling and if it’s not up to snuff I try to get a press release out.

The business is named after your mother. She was a big animal person, right?

We grew up with dogs, they were our sisters and brothers. I didn’t understand that there was a reason they weren’t equal. Her father was a well-known veterinarian in Boston and she grew up with animals and they were just part of her life, and they’re absolutely part of ours.

Do you have animals now?

I have four cats and two dogs.

What’s the difference in the business for dogs and cats?

People look at them differently. A dog is a dog, it comes into your house. They tend to get fixed more than cats, especially boy cats. The irony of that is the male cats have 100 kittens where the female is probably having 18 a year. When people bring in male cats, 99 percent of the reason is ‘He’s spraying’; it’s nothing to do with ‘Let’s stop him from having hundreds of kittens.’ With females it’s often ‘She just keeps getting pregnant, she’s in heat and she’s driving me crazy.’ The minority say, ‘She’s in heat and she’s in agony.’ Unneutered males, especially dogs, they’re in agony. That’s why they will jump through screens and windows; that drive to keep the species going is so intense.

Can you give an example of a typical day at the clinic?

We’ll arrive around 7-7:30 a.m., the cats will start to arrive around 8 a.m. in their carriers. We move them on board the trailer as they arrive, they get their flu shots. The doctor arrives at 8:30 a.m., she does all the physicals.

After the physicals are complete we start surgery. We’re in that trailer doing surgery from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., all animals stay with us for recovery for two hours. Our eyes are on those cats the entire time they’re there should something arise; it’s very close monitoring at all times. We then start the check out process. All those cats go home with paperwork and with an emergency 24/7 number. We do follow-ups after surgery; everybody’s going to get a follow-up call. We try to be totally full service.

Is there anything else you want to add?

I think the big thing is understanding how many kittens a male can have, and how many kittens a female can have. The thing that surprises most people is when a cat has kittens she can get pregnant again. So understanding the need for spay-neuter is I think what’s so important with what we do. Animals don’t go through menopause, they just keep cycling in to reproduce. You really don’t want to hold off.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @kronayne.)

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