"We're not helping pampered pooches and cuddled kittens," says Catherine Powers, president of the local Animal Protection Association (APA). "These are animals that have probably never been to a vet."
With the opening of the APA's new clinic at 854 Goodman Road, the nonprofit provides the most basic pet-care need -- spay and neuter services -- for people on government assistance and low-income families earning less than $30,000 a year. The APA has operated in Memphis since 1978, but, until recently, had to partner with local veterinarians.
The nonprofit opened the clinic in October of last year, and it has already spayed or neutered over 700 cats and dogs. According to Powers, the clinic is the only one of its kind in the area.
"Most cities are light-years ahead of us in this effort," says Powers.
People who bring proof of government assistance pay only $10 for spay and neuter services. Those with a total household income of $30,000 or less can receive services for $30 to $65, depending on their animal's sex and size.
Operating with one veterinarian, the clinic can treat 25 animals daily. However, the facility will accommodate 50 animals when they can hire another vet.
Volunteers fill other positions, such as vet techs, post-surgery caretakers, and check-in receptionists. Powers says the clinic is currently in desperate need of volunteer assistance.
Because their time at the APA clinic may be a pet's only vet care, volunteers give the animals extra attention.
"We have one or two people who monitor the animals after surgery. They check their respiration, how quickly they wake, and look for seepage [from the surgical incision]," says Powers. "Most vet offices don't even provide that service."
Currently the clinic is only open Tuesdays and Thursdays but plans to operate five days a week in the future.
The clinic also offers -- and will continue to offer, as long as funding is available -- free spay and neuter services for feral cats.
"There are people out there who take care of cat colonies, and if they can trap the cats and transport them here, we'll provide spay and neuter services and post-op care," says Powers.