In Morehouse Parish, a group of volunteers work tirelessly to help educate area residents about controlling the pet population by having their dogs and cats spayed and neutered.
A mobile veterinary service led by Dr. Tyler Thomas, a veterinarian from Monroe, currently travels to Morehouse twice a month to assist with spaying and neutering pets and strays located by the volunteers. On Friday, the unit was once again parked in a building volunteers use behind the Morehouse Parish Sheriff's Annex on Eugene Ware Road.
According to Dr. Thomas, his practice generally uses the mobile unit four days a week to go to people's houses and conducts a spay day approximately one day per week or four times per month.
"If you had a dog that needed shots or vaccines or dental — anything but X-rays — we can do that in this plus the regular spay/neuter," Thomas said. "It works out good for seniors, people with big dogs, people with four or five dogs and people who work."
On a spay day, Thomas can typically handle 20 to 30 dog or cat procedures and approximately the same number of cats on a half-day.
"I've been involved in spay/neuter the past 10 years on and off," Thomas said. "I've done approximately 11,000 that are stored in the computer. I did training with the Humane Alliance in North Carolina."
To receive an appointment for a spay/neuter day in Morehouse Parish, residents can pick up a form from PAWS of Northeast Louisiana at many area businesses and at the library as well as on the PAWS website at www.pawsnela.org/spay-neuter.php.
The form asks for owner information, the animal's information and basic financial data. It also requests that individuals circle the amount they can pay toward having your pet fixed. According to the form, a co-pay is appreciated, but no one is turned down based an inability to pay.
According to volunteer Jeni Slavant, many of the pet owners who come in to use the spay and neuter service were pressed into pet ownership as strays wandered to their homes or were deliberately dropped off by former owners.
Carolyn Files used the service today and said that many of her animals were abandoned and left at her property.
"I interviewed Tyler Thomas when he started his mobile veterinary clinic," Files said. "I'm delighted that PAWS has been able to get him into Bastrop because it makes it easy for me to use him."
When a owner arrives with a pet, they fill out a brief release form and the process starts.
In the mobile unit, all animals undergo general anesthesia with one animal going to sleep, one on the table and one waking up. The unit uses a reversible anesthetic, so pets can wake up within five minutes of surgery and the process is made as convenient as possible for owners.
When preparing for a visit, Jeni Slavant encourages individuals to bring their own pet carriers for dogs, and she notes that cats can't be seen without a carrier.
"People are still not familiar with the program," Slavant said. "I want them to know that it's good for Rayville, Oak Grove, Farmerville, Sterlington and Swartz...it's good for all of Northeast Louisiana."
The next spay/neuter day in Morehouse Parish will be held on August 6.