I’d much rather cover our organization’s successes, but sometimes feel the need to write about a failure.
This is one of those occasions.
We’ve tried, but cannot give away spay and neuter surgeries in East Palo Alto!
We bring our mobile spay/neuter clinic – our custom-painted, 25-foot long “surgery suite on wheels” to a busy town hub (Bell Street Park on University Avenue). We make the surgeries free and we allow people to drop off their pets without an appointment from 8- 9 am. We even throw in free vaccinations.
We've had great success in other Peninsula communities since the program’s inception six years ago, but we can’t get a full clinic in East Palo Alto.
On average, we take the clinic out 5-6 times per month, targeting communities where we see a higher number of homeless animals and believe that hurdles of cost and transportation are keeping some (many?) residents from fixing their pets.
We visit San Francisco twice per month and have to give out rain checks due to reaching capacity. We visit the Fair Oaks community in Redwood City – same deal. A full boat each time.
We’re a hit everywhere but EPA.
We kicked off a second series of clinics for EPA residents on May 9, and will continue visiting on the second Wednesday of each month, indefinitely. For that May 9 event, we had a modest turn-out: Six pets (15 is about the maximum).
A few years ago, when we made our first effort to reach this community with our vital service, we had clinics with just three and four pets!
This was disheartening, since we know this community needs our service; we need only look at the high number of stray and unwanted Pit Bulls, Chihuahuas and other dogs and cats coming to us from EPA to know people could use a no-cost, easy way to prevent unwanted litters.
Location, as they say, is key, and we have a great one for our EPA clinics.
The price can’t be beat. Promotion is a factor. In every other community we’ve targeted, we’ve had great success with volunteers blanketing the community with bilingual fliers announcing our clinics. Flier distribution in spots with high foot traffic – churches, libraries, town centers, delis, coffee shops -- usually does the trick.
We also send email blasts to city groups and leaders, pursue local cable TV spots and a few other avenues. The key is getting the message to the community we’re targeting; a widespread message reaches a larger audience and tempts “outsiders” with no moral compass to take advantage of a great deal. In every community, people love deals.
We’re going to stick with EPA since it's the right thing for us to do as a humane society concerned with overpopulation. This time around, we recruited another animal welfare organization. The Palo Alto Humane Society doesn’t shelter or adopt animals; their mission is to keep animals from entering shelters in the first place, and getting pets fixed, as we all know, is the best way to do this. We’re hopeful their involvement on the promotion/education front will boost attendance.
We’ve come to believe that East Palo Alto is the one community where we simply need to work harder, and that's OK. We’re paying for print ads in the East Palo Alto Today newspaper. On one level, it’s hard to justify paying $500 to promote a free service.
Maybe local residents think the deal is too good to be true. Or maybe they want to keep pets intact so they can sell the puppies and kittens. A free fix doesn’t mean much to the person selling puppies for $150!
If you know someone in this community who can benefit from this service, please spread the word.
Our next three clinics are on June 13, July 11 and August 8. We admit dogs and cats, no appointment needed, between 8-9 a.m. and only ask that they fast from midnight on the night before. Water after midnight is ok. We instruct owners to return the same day, late afternoon, to pick-up their pets and give them recovery instructions for home.
Oh, and if you’re in the area on the second Wednesday of the month, look for the vehicle emblazoned with “Go Nuts!” across the back end. It’s a serious business, but we have fun where we can!