Planned Pethood Executive Director and co-founder Elizabeth Burgner said while many low-income families love their pets, they struggle to care for them medically.

All day Tuesday, the clinic in Duluth offered many low-income Lawrenceville residents an opportunity to care for their pets with free spay and neuter surgeries that they may otherwise not have had.

“We are moving in the right direction,” Burgner said. “(But) there are people and communities that still need education on the importance of spaying and neutering their pets and financial help to make it happen.”

Planned Pethood of Georgia offered free spay and neuter surgeries, as well as rabies vaccinations, to 52 cats and dogs from Lawrenceville in recognition of Spay Day USA after receiving a $5,000 grant from Georgia Pet Foundation.

Spay Day is a national day devoted to bringing attention to pet overpopulation in the country. It was created in 1994, when 14-17 million pets were killed each year in shelters across the country. The number is now closer to 1 million.

Access to the surgeries on Tuesday were focused on Lawrenceville because, according to Gwinnett County Animal Welfare and Enforcement, that’s where most stray animal calls in the county originate.

Each year, Animal Welfare and Enforcement takes in approximately 6,000 stray, abandoned and surrendered animals.

Lawrenceville also happens to be the city with the largest population in Gwinnett County, as well as the highest poverty rate, at 21.6%. Meanwhile, Georgia’s average rate is 16.9% and the national average is 14.6%.

Lauren Frost, development coordinator at Planned Pethood, said the overpopulation issue in Georgia is high in part because there are no rules or regulations for pet owners to spay or neuter their animals.

“To prevent unwanted animals from being born and entering our shelters, spay and neuter is a proven solution for that,” Frost said. “And there are health benefits to it, too. Male dogs can’t get testicular cancer if they’re fixed, they’re less likely to spray or have behavior issues. In female dogs, it reduces their likelihood of getting an infected uterus.”

Frost said cats and dogs can get spayed and neutered at 8 weeks and 2 pounds. The surgery can take as little as 10 minutes for male cats and up to 30 minutes for female dogs.

Appointments for the surgeries at Planned Pethood filled up before Tuesday, and there was a waiting list for pets to be considered if more slots opened or more funding became available.

“We wish we could offer free services to everyone in need,” Frost said. “We are always seeking sponsorships for free services, and our regular prices are so low that with a little planning most people can afford them.”

To donate to Planned Pethood’s spay/neuter efforts, visit www.pethoodga.org/give/.

Planned Pethood of Georgia offers spay/neuter services year-round at their Duluth clinic, located at 2860 Buford Hwy. Building F, Suite 2. Surgery is between $50-$60 for cats and $70-$110 for dogs. Additional discounts may be available for feral/community cats.

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Chamian is a reporter with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Appalachian State University, as well as a graduate of Gwinnett County Schools. She previously covered politics and education in North Georgia.

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