Monday, November 29, 2021

Helping Solve Pet Overpopulation One “SNIP” at a Time


Photos by Lynn Alexander | Tom Kepp, SNIP Collier founder and Tricia Titus, volunteer at the brand-new SNIP Collier Clinic on Davis Boulevard.


 

Tom Kepp, Founder of SNIP Collier (Spay and Neuter Initiative Program), is talking about the May 18 opening of the SNIP Clinic on Davis Boulevard when his phone rings. A pet owner is inquiring about spay service for his cat who will soon be going into heat. After providing the clinic details Kepp comments, “See, so many people want to do the right thing for their pets. They just either don’t know how to go about it or can’t afford it.” And that is how SNIP Collier was born.

“We can’t adopt our way out of pet overpopulation,” Kepp explains. “SNIP isn’t a sanctuary or a rescue. We are a boots-on-the-ground organization addressing the root problem in euthanizing animals, which is pet overpopulation. Our main goal is to stop overpopulation by offering low cost spay and neuter programs to the community along with public awareness. It’s not the sexiest of the animal services but it is the most needed.”

Photos SNIP Collier

Kepp, who has over 20-years’ experience in pet rescue, adoption, and enforcement, started out by going door-to-door, quite literally, in Immokalee and other high need areas. “We would see puppies and momma dogs in a yard and ask the owners if they needed any help,” Kepp recalls. “Once there, we found out that yes, they did want to get their pet fixed but couldn’t afford it. So, we decided to offer free spay and neutering serviced in Immokalee the third Thursday of every month.” Kepp teamed up with Gulf Coast Humane Society (GCHS) in Ft. Myers for the surgeries. “They have been an incredible partner,” says Kepp of GCHS. “Besides helping with our free monthly spay and neuter program, they take in many of the surrenders we receive.” Interested pet owners call SNIP to be put on the list. The Tuesday before surgery day, instructions are sent on what to do. Then Thursday at 6:30 AM, people and pets start lining up at the Winn Dixie in Immokalee, where a van provided by GCHS is waiting to take the dogs and cats to Ft. Myers where they will be spayed, neutered, and given a rabies shot. The van returns after 4:00 PM for owners to pick up their pets. “It has been hugely successful,” Kepp says, “and we couldn’t have done it without Gulf Coast Humane Society.” SNIP went from spaying and neutering 35 dogs in 2013 to an astounding 754 dogs in 2020.

“We are now recognized in the community,” Kepp says. “Every day, I’ll get calls about pregnant dogs or mamma dogs with their puppies. If they want to surrender the animals, we take them and neuter/spay after the puppies are weaned from their mother. Then most of the animals are sent to Gulf Coast Humane Society or one of the many rescues in Collier and Lee County,” Kepp explains. “Other times, the owners just can’t keep the puppies. Again, we’ll take mamma and puppies, fix them, then return mamma to the family and the puppies go to a foster for adoption. We also provide spay and neuter services for strays and rescues,” Kepp continues. “Once that is done, the animals will go to a rescue for socialization, fostering and adoption.”

To date, SNIPs has provided most of its services for dogs but Kepp sees an increased need for cats. “We’ve been getting more and more calls about found kittens,” Kepp says. Already, SNIP has put together two educational programs on kitten care, feeding, fostering, trap neuter & release (TNR) and community feral cat programs. “As long as the need is there, we will continue to educate and enlist volunteers,” he says.

 


Photos SNIP Collier


 

“This is where the magic happens”, says Staci Clark, Director of Operations at the SNIP Clinic at 7795 Davis Boulevard.” We already have over 100 animals on the waiting list and can do anywhere from 10 to 25 a day.” she explains. “We also offer a la carte pricing on everything from heartworm and flea prevention to vaccines and microchip that can be done at the same time of the spay/neuter.” Clark’s organizational skills are evident in the clinic. “After surgery, pets are placed here before being moved back to a second recovery area,” she explains. “There are special areas for small and large dogs and of course, the cats get their own place.” Clark’s attention to detail comes from her genuine love of animals. “I’ve been working with animals since I was 17 years old,” she says. Coming up, SNIPS will host a vaccine clinic this summer.

Photos SNIP Collier

Of course, operating a low cost spay and neuter clinic means there is a need for donations. “Blankets, towels, comforters, yarn, peroxide… you name it, and we can use it. You can donate items directly from our list on Amazon, too.” Clark says. Another way to help – select SNIP Collier as your charity on Amazon Smile. A portion of everything you buy will go directly to them at no cost to you.

SNIP Collier has something even more exciting on the horizon – a facility in Immokalee that will offer the same low cost spay and neuter services. “There is a need for this in Immokalee,” says Kepp, whose passion is on full display as he talks about the campus on Sgt. Joe Jones Road. “Families in Immokalee want to do what is best for their pet, but the services just don’t exist, literally and physically. And that is where SNIP will come in.” The building used to be the county Domestic Animal Services facility; SNIP got a 30-year lease from the county and will use it to handle the spay and neuter needs of Immokalee pets. “We are going to completely remodel the facility and provide low cost spay and neuter services for the community,” Kepp says. “We are also converting one of the buildings into an education center to help teach proper pet care and fostering.” He hopes to have the three-acre facility up and running in early 2022. For now, residents in Immokalee can still take advantage of the free spay and neuter service the third Thursday of every month or come to the Davis Boulevard clinic.

As if answering calls on dog and cat surrenders, opening a new clinic, and preparing to renovate another weren’t enough, Kepp is also knee-deep in getting funds and volunteers. “Every little bit helps,” Kepp says. “Right now, we could use kitten fosters. And coming up Memorial Day, Gulf Coast Runners is hosting a 5K fundraising event for SNIP. They’ve been a huge supporter from the beginning.” For more details on the run, go to the SNIP Collier website or Gulf Coast Runners, gcrunner.org.

It’s a never-ending process,” Kepp says, “but statistics have shown there is a direct link between sterilizing and euthanizing. The more pets sterilized, the less euthanizing in the community.” He’s about to continue when the phone rings. “Gotta run,” he says. SNIP Collier’s on the move to help another pet in need. 

For more information on the SNIP Collier Clinic at 7795 Davis Boulevard, call 239-778-8572. You can also find SNIP on Facebook, Instagram, and their website www.snipcollier.org.

 



 

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