From December 17 through 20, volunteer-based nonprofit Brooklyn Bridge Animal Welfare Coalition (BBAWC) will be hosting a “Spayathon,” aimed at addressing the spay and neuter affordability crisis in New York City.
BBAWC is a women-led animal welfare group with space for adoption and rescue within the borough’s beloved Brooklyn Cat Cafe in Brooklyn Heights.
During Spayathon Weekend — which lasts a full four days — BBAWC will be offering low-price surgeries at 639 Fourth Ave. in Brooklyn, thanks to their partnership with Park Slope Veterinary Center. During the event, cat rescuers and low-income cat owners can get their female cats spayed for $100 and male cats neutered for $80. The prices include a full veterinary exam, rabies vaccine, FVRCP vaccine, flea treatment and microchip.
Spayathon Weekend, hosted in partnership with Best Friends Animal Society, was inspired by the spay and neuter affordability crisis across the five boroughs, said Adelia Honeywood Harrison, manager of grants and outreach at BBAWC.
“Our organization has estimated that there might be 500,000 cats living on the streets of New York City,” she told Brooklyn Paper.
The Big Apple is currently home to a large population of homeless cats, but cat rescuers and cat owners seeking affordable care for their animals are facing limited assistance, Honeywood Harrison said.
There are roughly 1,500 cat rescuers each month vying for one of 1,200 free spay-neuter appointments provided by local vets and other organizations. That puts cat rescuers in competition, Honeywood Harrison said, hoping for appointments they’ll likely never get.
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Rescuers’ other option for spay/neuter surgeries is private vets who offer these services for $400 to $1,000.
“People just can’t afford that,” Honeywood Harrison said.
This is a major issue, she said, since rescuers are a vital part of the solution for cats.
“Individuals are really the only people in the city that are rescuing cats off the streets, and they need to find affordable spay-neuter, and they are all competing for a set of appointments that are very limited,” Honeywood Harrison said.
For pet owners seeking affordable help, it is even harder.
“Right now our clinic is really the only option for low-income pet owners, to get low-cost spay-neuter,” Honeywood Harrison said.
BBAWC offers appointments at the Brooklyn Cat Cafe within the month and for under a hundred dollars, an unheard-of price in contrast to private vets who are offering the same services.
“There’s a lot of people all over the city who need the spay neuter, and there just needs to be a lot more, there just isn’t enough to meet the needs,” Honeywood Harrison said.
BBAWC launched an in-house, low-cost spay and neuter clinic within the Brooklyn Cat Cafe in the fall of 2021. Since then, the group has performed more than 2,000 surgeries on rescued cats, but Honeywood Harrison said that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
“In the pandemic, we started offering just the basic veterinary clinic for cat rescuers so they can come in and get an exam and vaccines and flee treatment,” she said. “And then, in 2021 we got grant funding … and we started our own spay/neuter clinic.”
By partnering with private clinics, BBAWC is able to perform high-volume surgeries and create opportunities for veterinarians to train. Many newly graduated veterinarians lack surgery experience, so it is a mutually beneficial partnership.
“What it’s really trying to do is to get animal welfare professionals to work together to help reduce the homeless cat population,” Honeywood Harrison said.
In 2020, BBWAC had its biggest year, adopting out 1023 cats. Despite having to close down for part of the pandemic, and changing its open days to four rather than six, BBWAC has remained steady, adopting out 965 cats in 2021.
The affordable services that BBWAC offers are open to cat rescuers and owners, and the nonprofit hopes that individuals will partner with them in an effort to lessen the homeless cat population in NYC.
“Everyone can be part of the solution to help cats. If you see a cat on your street you can take it, you can bring it to our clinic [and] we can give you low-cost veterinary care, we can scan the chip,” Honeywood Harrison said. “If you can foster that will help us find a home for the cat. Just anybody out there on the streets can be part of the solution to help cats.”
Cat rescuers who participate in Spayathon Weekend may also be eligible for an additional discount thanks to a grant from the ASPCA.
For more information on BBWAC or Spayathon Weekend, or to book an appointment, visit bbawc.org/clinic.