Every cat or dog who shows up at No More Homeless Pets KC gets a free trip to the beach to lie around and relax. Who wouldn't
want to go? The only catch is, the beach is actually a big comfy blanket on the floor of the surgery room, and the cats or
dogs who rest there are coming out from under anesthesia after a spay or neuter. Not exactly Club Med for the pets, but it
means they’re observed as they come out of anesthesia and don't get thrown back into the cage right after surgery. Near the
beach—at the surgery tables—is where Dr. Sheila Dodson works at her dream job as chief veterinarian at the low-cost spay and
neuter clinic in the Kansas City suburb of Merriam, Kan.
Dr. Sheila Dodson operates in the surgery room of No More Homeless Pets KC in Merriam, Kan. Photo courtesy of No More Homeless
Dr. Dodson served as an associate in private practice for seven years before coming to No More Homeless Pets KC. She was hired
when her friend and fellow animal welfare volunteer Gail Longstaff became president of the organization. Dr. Dodson now gets
to do what she love: lots of surgeries. “In private practice, at the end of a year I could say I’d done so many vaccines and
so many exams,” Dr. Dodson says. “Here, I can say I’ve done so many spays and neuters. It’s an achievement.”
The clinic, with the full-time veterinarian Dr. Dodson, can handle about 40 spays and neuters a day. Dr. Dodson works regular
hours Monday through Thursday. On Sundays and during special events, a handful of the rotating roster of 25 private practitioners
volunteer their services. Also, veterinary students from the University of Missouri and Kansas State University come in for
Longstaff says the clinic has maintained a positive relationship with private practitioners by being proactive, even before
opening the new facility in December 2007. Dr. Dodson sent a letter to area veterinarians telling them about the clinic, the
low-income populations they’d be serving, and that ongoing medical care wouldn’t be provided. If any of the veterinarians
were worried about competition, the letter and tours of the facility seemed to relieve their concerns. “We wanted them to
see we’re a professional organization that offers high-quality medical care,” Longstaff says.
Longstaff also takes the time to explain to veterinarians how the shelter operates. She lets them know that when pet owners
call in to request a low-cost spay or neuter, receptionists screen them by about their income status and the animal’s potential
to breed. If someone has a female dog, for instance, that has had litters in the past, that dog is a prime candidate.
Longstaff hopes high-quality spay and neuter clinics like No More Homeless Pets KC become the norm. Veterinarians and animal
welfare volunteers are in this together, she says. More than 100 veterinarians have agreed to give free wellness exams to
anyone who gets animals spayed and neutered there. It’s a positive sign.
“We’re not the be-all, end-all magic answer for improving animal welfare,” she says. “We tell clients to go to veterinarians
to keep up with vaccines and continuing medical care.” It will take everyone that cares about animals working together to
ultimately solve the problem of too many animals in shelters, Longstaff says.