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Establishing a spay/neuter voucher program

  • 1.  Establishing a spay/neuter voucher program

    Posted 02-27-2024 04:57 PM

    Hi all! My group is helping to establish a spay/neuter voucher program in one of the cities we work with. They had one a few years ago that wasn't successful so there are a lot of eyes on it this time around. If your city has a program would you mind sharing how it operates? Some areas of interest include:

    • How are vets reimbursed?
    • Do you have a negotiated price with vets or is it the same as what the public pays?
    • How did you get vets onboard with the program?
    • How do you ensure people show up to appointments/ don't cancel?
      • If an appointment is missed, is the vet still paid? 
    • How long are the vouchers good for? We don't want them to be indefinite but are cognizant of surgery backlogs.
    • How do you track voucher use/success?
    • How do you distribute the vouchers? We are concerned with backyard breeders gaining access to them
    • Anything else a new voucher program should know.
    • Anything we should avoid doing!

    Thanks everyone!


    #AccesstoCare
    #CommunityPartnerships*
    #FieldServicesandPublicSafety*
    #Medicine,SurgeryandSterilization
    #PetSupportServices*

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    Rachel Watsky
    VP
    Feral Freedom, Northern California
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  • 2.  RE: Establishing a spay/neuter voucher program

    Posted 02-28-2024 05:11 AM

    Great questions! I would also love information and guidance on creating a voucher program. Currently our little rescue is working on a S/N program but can really only fund 1-2 surgeries per month. We are definitely having some trouble getting it off the ground. 



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    Rebecca Zelanko
    Vice President
    Second Chance Ranch Rescue and Sanctuary
    Raeford, NC
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  • 3.  RE: Establishing a spay/neuter voucher program

    Posted 03-04-2024 03:59 AM

    Good for you! We are small also, serving three counties in North Central Arkansas. We have specific "projects" for spaying. "The Homeless Dog Project" and "Spay Your Pit Bull" are two of them.  Vouchers are given as long as they meet the project requirement, and our vouchers are for a flat fee  of $75. We have two vets who have agreed to spay and give a rabies shot for that price.  Other vets in the area will take our vouchers but then charge the owners the remaining balance.  Vouchers are good for two months, and we mail them to owners. 

    If you would like more info, just message me.



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    Susan Clay
    The Martha Decker Memorial Fund for Animals
    FL
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  • 4.  RE: Establishing a spay/neuter voucher program

    Posted 02-28-2024 06:06 AM

    Hi - we started our voucher program in 2020 during the pandemic and it's been going strong ever since.  It is for low-income or unemployed pet-owning residents of our county.

    We at first tried partnering with the local shelter to hand out vouchers, but we gave them 5 to start with and they lost 4 of them so we quickly determined this was not going to work for accountability reasons.  We are sticklers for an audit trail in the work we do.

    We set up a form on our website for people to request assistance.  Info is here: https://www.shelterpetsafetynet.org/spay-neuter/

    The form is in both English and Spanish, and can be printed off if needed. 

    After consulting with another charity that provides low-cost S/N in Austin, we decided not to demand a lot of "proof". We ask about income, number of people in household, occupation, and they can tell us more in a comments section.  It is very rare that we turn anyone down.  We know there are a few people with higher incomes taking advantage of the program, but for the most part the benefits are going to people who need them.

    The process is: Applicant applies online, we tell them where they can make an appointment for the surgery.  They have to send us back the place/time for the appointment, then we approve them.  We let the service provider know we are paying for it.  There is no physical voucher; the applicant has the email from us and the service providers keep records that we are the payer for the surgery.  This avoids the issue of paper being lost/passed on to someone else.

    We partner with a local charity, Save An Angel, which does low-cost spay/neuter surgeries in our county. They give us a discount and they directly bill us for the surgery cost. If the animal does not have a rabies vaccination we pay for that too, and for dogs we also cover distemper vaccinations.  They also refer people to us when they call to make appointments and say they cannot afford the cost.

    In addition to Save An Angel, we work with an Austin charity (Emancipet) that does low cost  S/N, and a couple of local veterinary practices that are more reasonable than some in the area.  The local vet connection is important because the low-cost charity S/N organizations do not have a lot of capacity for larger dogs (of which there are MANY in our rural area) and they also turn away animals that have additional medical problems - heart issues and so on - as they don't have the resources to deal with that.  Other local vets will take these cases for extra cost.  Our philosophy is -- it may cost more but these animals need the help.  We don't need another large litter of Great Pyrenees or Mastiff mix puppies running around.  We have good relationships with the surgery providers and all of them will bill us directly.

    Our biggest challenge is the capacity of the surgery providers.  There can be a wait of months for larger animals.

    Second biggest challenge is getting people to follow through with the appointments.   Quite a few of them we never hear back from after they apply.  We don't have manpower to follow up with them quickly, though they do get at least one reminder.   Eventually we take them off our list if they haven't done anything in a year.

    Hope this helps!

    Jenni



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    Jenni Ritchie
    Shelter Pet Safety Net
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  • 5.  RE: Establishing a spay/neuter voucher program

    Posted 02-29-2024 04:09 AM

    Hello -

    Our charity was approved in January of this year.  The way we are working is that people apply online to have their pet spay/neutered.  We set up the appointment with the local vet.  They perform the procedure and bill us.  We pay them.   QUESTION FOR THOSE DOING THIS A WHILE - Are we required to send a 1099 to the vet for the monies we pay them for this service?  One accountant said yes and another accountant said no since it would be considered a benevolent organization activity.  What are you all doing?  We are just starting out and want to make sure we do things correctly.  We've already spayed/neutered 6 pets and are so very excited.



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    Karen Kirsch
    Founder
    Spayed and Aid
    KY
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  • 6.  RE: Establishing a spay/neuter voucher program

    Posted 03-01-2024 10:20 AM

    We have been doing a spay-neuter assistance program in central AZ for more than a decade and have never sent a 1099 to a vet, nor have ever had one requested.



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    L.A Nesbitt
    President
    Pets In Need Action League
    Casa Grande, AZ 85130
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  • 7.  RE: Establishing a spay/neuter voucher program

    Posted 02-28-2024 07:14 AM

    We have a rebate  program. SNAP (spay neuter assistance). Amount rebated is not great but it helps. Folks apply and receive a voucher. They have 90 days to use it. vet signs it at time of surgery and client returns it.they cover all vet cost up front. They are mailed a rebate. We do not require proof of low income. An animal fixed in the community, is one less animal breeding in the community.......The amount of the rebate differs per cat and dog and spay or neuter.



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    Rochelle Hamp
    Executive Director
    Headwaters Animal Shelter
    MN
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  • 8.  RE: Establishing a spay/neuter voucher program

    Posted 02-28-2024 05:38 PM

    Hi Rachel,

    We don't have a voucher program, but I'll share my thoughts on the areas where we overlap.  Kotor Kitties provides free or heavily-subsidized spay-neuter surgeries for cats in a Balkan country called Montenegro.

    1. Vet reimbursement:  we try to always prepay as much as we can for 2 reasons:  1) we don't ever want to be caught short of funds/unable to pay our vets (rescues abroad are notorious for non-payment of bills)  and 2) the cost of transferring funds oversees make large payments more cost-effective.
    2. Yes!  we have a negotiated price of 50% off the official price established by the Veterinary Chamber (the minimum of what the public pays) in exchange for the high volume of surgery we send our 4 partner vets.
    3. To get vets involved we met with them and asked that they help solve the overpopulation problem.  The first vet knew immediately what we wanted to do.  Once we built up some volume,  he helped us recruit 2 more that he felt were honest and hard-working.  Those are not qualities that are easy to find where we work.  One other vet, not recommended, but in an area where we desperately needed a vet, did not work out.  We canceled the contract at the end of the 30 days trial, based on feedback from caretakers (clients).
    4. We pay per cat, not per voucher.  There are no-shows, and our vets have learned to book slightly over their capacity to compensate for this.

    As far as backyard breeders--my personal attitude is that if it spays or neuters one of their animals, it's money well spent!  We focus on the overall goal, which is reducing the overpopulation of cats in the community.  Thus we reduce as many barriers as possible. 

    Rather than have people lie to us, we have no location boundaries or income limits for cats receiving eartips.  Since we raise our own funds and aren't bound by government contracts, we're free to do this.  Our vets will accept payment of our set price from people who they don't want an ear tip.  Why?  Again, our overall goal is reducing overpopulation. 

    Rather than put people through the indignity of documenting their income, we simply ask everyone to donate what they can, anonymously.  If they voluntarily say that they can't afford a donation, we ask them to help catch other cats in their neighborhood, or spread the word about spay-neuter. 

    Word of mouth has been powerful advertising for spay-neuter!  We put all of our funds into the surgeries, not into marketing spay-neuter.  It is a country that basically knew nothing of spay-neuter when we started, and most people were reluctant to consider it for cats they knew or fed...   Within 2 years we were spay-neutering as fast as we could fundraise!  And we've been told by vets and rescuers that more people are adopting cats now, as long as they are sterilized!

    Good luck with your new program!



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    April King
    Volunteer and Board Member
    Kotor Kitties
    +1 206 407 5336
    http://www.kotorkitties.org
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  • 9.  RE: Establishing a spay/neuter voucher program

    Posted 02-29-2024 12:41 AM

    Hi again, Rachel--I should have started out by asking you what happened the first time so that it didn't work out?  It would be a good lesson for all of us!



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    April King
    Volunteer and Board Member
    Kotor Kitties
    +1 206 407 5336
    http://www.kotorkitties.org
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  • 10.  RE: Establishing a spay/neuter voucher program

    Posted 02-28-2024 11:10 PM

    I'm reading the feedback you received! This is Stray Kitty Rescue. We are located in Philadelphia PA in a low income area and now of severa large organizations that work with the city that have spay and neuter vouchers. Is there a competition that must be won to get these vouchers? In general what are the pre qualifications? Ty 



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    KIM GRI
    CEO
    STRAY KITTY RESCUE
    PA
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  • 11.  RE: Establishing a spay/neuter voucher program

    Posted 02-29-2024 07:53 AM

    Thanks for starting this topic Rachel!

    Our voucher program has been in place since 2006, and lately we're averaging about 4,600-4,700 surgeries each year through it. But it started smaller of course. We're very fortunate to have two high-volume clinic in our area that make our current levels possible. In total, our vouchers are accepted by 37 clinics across two counties. We've never had income requirements on our program, although I've started to wonder if it's time to move in the direction to make our impact a little more targeted. 
    Until last year, there was always a free option available when using a voucher….we based our reimbursement rates on the local Humane Society's pricing. So when used there, the cost was covered in full (and the same value would be applied at any other clinic, leaving the pet owner to pay the difference). However, they implemented a 40%+ increase across the board last year, and there was no way for us to match it. So there's no longer a free option, and we're sad about that.
    Vouchers are available online on our website (AnimalMission.org) or can be picked up in person at the two local animal shelters. Having both a digital and physical distribution option makes sure no one is left out…the folks without transportation/time or the folks without computer access. The online method allows print-at-home or a US mail option, for anyone without a printer (which is getting to be more common).
    We stay out of the appointment process (but we do provide a list of participating clinics and answer lots of questions daily on it). Vouchers are distributed freely, and only really have value once redeemed. Plenty go unused after being claimed, and that's ok. The pet owner will present the voucher (like a coupon) and the discount is applied to their cost. The vet or clinic then mails the voucher back to us (or sends it electronically) and then we issue a check. It's a little cumbersome and outdated….I would love to hear if anyone has a smoother reimbursement system?
    It's printed on the vouchers that they're good for 90 days from the date of issue, but we've never refused to honor one based on date. It's just there to encourage people to follow through with their surgery plans in a timely way. We recommend they get their appointments in place before acquiring a voucher, because there's a 2-3 month wait for appointments at the large clinics right now.
    Voucher use and stats are just tracked through an Excel spreadsheet and Quickbooks. I'm basic;)
    If we could get vouchers into the hands of every backyard breeder, I'd be thrilled. Our landscape here might be a little different, but that would actually feel like a good thing here.
    We eventually learned to build in ways to make sure the vouchers were really being used by pet owners who requested them….all it takes is a clinic buying a ream of matching colored paper (all of our vouchers are on colored paper) and a copy machine to start printing money. Ask me how I know;)  We have one clinic that tries some new thing every so often and it keeps me on my toes.
    We don't allow rescue groups to use vouchers unless they're partnered with our local shelters and pull animals. 
    Feel free to poke around our website and even submit a test voucher request if you want to receive all of the correspondence and a voucher (just name your pet Test so I'll know:). I would definitely love any feedback on how that process works from a new user perspective.
    I'm happy to send you any documents or forms or data you want…..just email info@animalmission.org. Last year we helped a new non-profit in a neighboring county set up a voucher program using our forms and a little starter money, and they're doing incredible work now. 


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    Jen Coody
    Animal Mission
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  • 12.  RE: Establishing a spay/neuter voucher program

    Posted 03-01-2024 10:38 PM

    These are great responses!  we are a small rural clinic - one of our goals is to start a spay and neuter program, but we struggle with funding.  where do I look for funding sources? 



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    Connie Ash
    Director
    Mended Paws Sanctuary
    AR
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  • 13.  RE: Establishing a spay/neuter voucher program

    Posted 03-02-2024 09:01 AM