Sumner Spay Neuter Alliance is a private, non-profit organization formed in 2009 by animal welfare advocates with the common goal of reducing the suffering and death of dogs and cats as a result of pet overpopulation. SSNA has one focus area and that is spay/neuter.
In 2011, the SSNA opened its doors at 720 Blythe Ave. in Gallatin, complete with licensed veterinarians and an experienced staff, offering state of the art medical equipment for every surgical procedure.
Stepping into their facilities in Gallatin one sees and feels a clear sense of care and compassion for the animals they serve and the future human caregivers.
“Since July 2011, we have performed (over) 80,603 surgeries,” said Sara Felmlee, executive director/financial officer. “Our goal is 10,000 surgeries a year, but with COVID, we’re a little behind this year with 5,017.”
Felmlee said this year the clinic opened May 1, with most of the clinics in the area not opening right away.
“We got so backed up, we were scheduling four weeks out, to do 1,000 surgeries a month,” she said. “We started limiting services to Sumner County residents, which we’d never done that before. But, I couldn’t in good conscience schedule someone from Nashville in two or three weeks, and then push some in Sumner County even further out.”
She noted that requests were coming from rescue groups from all over Middle Tennessee.
“They neuter before adoption,” she said. “So, they couldn’t do adoptions until they got these animals spayed or neutered. So we were turning away probably 15 different groups from out of our county that were asking us to please get their animals in. We want to give Sumner County groups priority, like Animal Control, the Humane Society, and Safe Place For Animals. One of our goals is to reduce intake and euthanasia at animal control. Intake and euthanasia has gone down at the same time spay and neuter has gone up.”
She added that the process of “trap, neuter, return” is required for community cats, but that so many come in without appointments because you never know when you can catch a cat.
Aside from keeping up with the demand for care, Felmlee said that many people can’t afford to pay or even pay a $10 co-pay.
“So we do a lot of fundraising and writing grants but also get a lot of support,” she said noting procedures such as getting an ear tip for a feral cat, surgery, shots for rabies and distemper, as well as de-wormer, flea treatment, pain meds, and in some cases an overnight stay.
She also acknowledged that things are often very emotional for people seeking care for their cat or dog, with cost being a key concern.
She noted that social distancing has been a challenge, with the COVID virus, not all clinics opened, so SSNA received the overflow from those clinics.
“I don’t want to say no—but had to a lot lately,” Felmlee said. “Every Monday we rotate transport. We go to Macon County, Robertson County, Trousdale County. They have groups that help people, but no clinics. We go and pick up the animals and then take them back the next morning. We can’t offer as many transports because we’re trying to catch up locally. This clearly affects surrounding communities that count on us, too.”
But there are many positives that come as well, citing three feral kittens that had been brought in that now are located in a machine shop, which gave the person who had brought in the kittens a sense of great relief.
The facility has a doctor on site, a front office person, as well as a back person - laundry and other support such as surgical packs, sweeping and mopping, and there are four veterinary assistants that handle duties such as prepping, monitoring; watching recovery on blankets as well as getting patients back to the cages.
Animal welfare advocate started SSNA
The tenure of support for animal care and welfare is impressive, with New Hersey native June McMahon having been with animal welfare in Sumner County since the 1970s, and Felmlee having started in 1992 in Wilson County, resigning in 2009, when called for duty and support by McMahon.
“We’ll come in on Sunday night at 9 p.m. if someone needs us to see their animal.” said Felmlee. “I carry the Emergency phone 24/7. There can be complications – not often – but we take care of them. For those who can pay, we have prices for services.”
Services for fees include $35 for cat neuter, $45 for cat spay, $50 for dog neuter, $60 for dog spay, with $25 for feral cat spay or neuter. Rabies shots are free.
The facilities features what is referred to as “the beach” where recovering dog and cats rest after surgery before being returns to cages, with a bigger area referred to as Dane Island for big dogs like Great Danes and Great Pyrenees.
“For years the building was a florist shop, and it was a mess when we got it,” said Felmlee. “We have a great team of people. These guys care a great deal about these animals like they are their own, and they work very hard. We hope to educate people to be better clients for vets.”
McMahon, who is president of the Board of Directors for Sumner Spay Neuter Alliance put things in perspective.
“We have reduced the animal intake at the government Animal Control Shelter by 42 percent and reduced the euthanasia of unwanted, homeless animals by 60 percent.” she said. “Satisfaction is accomplishing our mission to reduce animal intake and euthanasia, through spay/neuter, in the AC shelter.
Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in Middle Tennessee, the 2020 Pedal for Paws Organization Committee had to cancel the popular fundraiser event.
While the committee was including several measures to keep people safe, there was nothing they can do to guarantee that riders and volunteers can participate without encountering an infected person.
“This would have been PFP's 10th year, typically raising about $25,000-$30,000,” said McMahon. “Most of our sponsors have not requested a refund this year, even though the event did not occur. They just turned their sponsorships into donations. Funds go to spay and neuter and provide health care for pets belonging to persons who cannot afford to have it done. We recognize that if we are to accomplish our mission of reducing intake and euthanasia, we must reach all pets with spay neuter, not just those who belong to persons who can afford the services.”
Being optimistic, the next Pedal for Paws has been scheduled for May 1, 2021.
Hours of operation for Sumner Spay Neuter Alliance are Monday 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Tuesday 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Wednesday 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Thursday 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and Friday 7:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. SSNA is closed on Saturday and Sunday. Donations are welcomed.
For more information, call (615) 452-2233.