Operation SOS awarded grant for spaying and neutering

Posted 9/13/19

OKEECHOBEE — Operation SOS, a nonprofit that offers low-cost spay and neutering, has been awarded a grant of $10,000 to offer its services to low-income families and individuals in Okeechobee …

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Operation SOS awarded grant for spaying and neutering


OKEECHOBEE — Operation SOS, a nonprofit that offers low-cost spay and neutering, has been awarded a grant of $10,000 to offer its services to low-income families and individuals in Okeechobee County for the upcoming year.

The grant was awarded by Florida Animal Friend, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending pet overpopulation. Operation SOS Executive Director Dr. Julie Kittams applied for the grant and was one of the 32 that were approved for funding in Florida.

Lake Okeechobee News/Richard Marion
A cat and her five kittens await surgery in the Operation SOS mobile clinic in Okeechobee.

The grant program is funded through the sale of specialty license plates, available through the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles. Grant funds increase the number of alteration surgeries, which reduces pet overpopulation and ultimately saves the lives of homeless cats and dogs.

Operation SOS is a mobile veterinary clinic that travels to locations in the City of Fort Pierce, St. Lucie County and Okeechobee County. When they’re in Okeechobee, the clinic can be found in front of the Tractor Supply on U.S. 441. They also work the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office Animal Control.

“We developed a relationship with Dr. Julie in our second year of taking over Animal Control,” Sheriff Noel E. Stephen said. “The relationship has been amazing to say the least. We have increased our spaying and neuter numbers as well as our local adoption numbers. Dr. Julie has grown her company from servicing just Okeechobee County to now the entire Treasure Coast. These dollars awarded are just for Okeechobee County residents so they can afford to spay and neuter their pets.”

Lake Okeechobee News/Richard Marion
Residents line up to bring their pets to the Operation SOS mobile clinic in front of Tractor Supply on the morning of Sept. 10.

Dr. Kittams credited their work with Okeechobee Animal Control as having a domino effect on what they have been able to do throughout the Treasure Coast.

“Animal Control came to us when we first started coming to Okeechobee and asked us to work on the shelter animals,” said Dr. Kittams. “Without the sheriff trusting us we wouldn’t have been able to move forward with the work we do in Port St. Lucie and the City of Fort Pierce. It really changed our organization to have Okeechobee support us.”

Operation SOS has already put some of the grant money to use in Okeechobee, spending $800 in two weeks to help spay and neuter pets of low-income residents in the county. They’ll be required to provide updates to Florida Animal Friend on how the money is being used throughout the year.

Dr. Kittams says the process to prove one’s income to qualify for the low-cost spay and neutering isn’t time-consuming or invasive.

Lake Okeechobee News/Richard Marion
From left to right: Dr. Julie Kittams, Sgt. Arlene Durbin, SOS staff member Amber Sweatt holding Daisy, SOS staffer Sara Schneider, Sheriff Stephen holding Rosie; and Lt. Shane Snyder. Daisy and Rosie went on to be adopted by Wendy Dwyer and Dan Hafner.

“Most people will show us their Medicare, Medicaid card, food stamp or veteran card,” explained Dr. Kittams. “It’s as simple as a card they use probably almost daily. It’s very rare that somebody needs to go as far as bringing me their tax returns.”

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), early spaying of female dogs and cats can help protect them from some serious health problems later in life such as uterine infections and breast cancer. Neutering your male pet can also lessen its risk of developing benign prostatic hyperplasia and testicular cancer.

Removing a female dog or cat’s ovaries also eliminates heat cycles and generally reduces the unwanted behaviors that may lead to owner frustration. And removing the testes from male dogs and cats reduces the breeding instinct, making them less inclined to roam and more content to stay at home.

Operation SOS provides surgeries for cats for the cost of $5 and dogs for $30. That fee does not include the rabies vaccination, which is required. If your pet does not have an up-to-date vaccination, Operation SOS can perform one on the day of surgery for $10.

If you would like to bring your pet to the mobile vet clinic to be spayed or neutered, you will need to make an appointment with Operation SOS on their website, operationsos.net, or by phone at 772-222-7717.