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Going the distance for spay/neuter

From Animal Sheltering magazine March/April 2016

Clara Lee Arnold staffs the MASH clinic cat room with help from Bart, one of her foster kittens at the time.

When weatherman Al Roker completed a “Rokerthon,” setting a Guinness World Record for “longest uninterrupted live weather report” during a 34-hour forecast, it sparked a flash of inspiration in Santa Cruz Veterinary Clinic employee Clara Lee Arnold.

“Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could do a world record spay/neuter-thon?” she recalls saying to clinic owner Karter Neal. While the event—which became known as the 48-hour Marathon Animal Spay/Neuter Hospital (MASH) clinic—didn’t end up breaking world records, it did provide free sterilization surgeries, promote spay and neuter and empower Tucson, Ariz., pet owners to help combat animal homelessness.

Arnold and Neal joined forces with Pat Hubbard, community outreach and education director at the Humane Society of Southern Arizona, and pitched their idea to community members and animal welfare organizations.

Neal appealed for assistance in the Arizona Veterinary Medical Association newsletter, and organizers created a Facebook page, website and promotional fliers for the event.

Over a year, the “labor of the community” came together. A former elementary school was tapped to house the clinic; two professors at the Pima Medical Institute assigned entire classes of veterinary technicians to the event; local organizations, councilmembers, police departments and even a radio station donated time and money; and veterinarians from neighboring cities signed up for shifts.

Although pet owners had been encouraged to book appointments online with the caveat “be prepared to wait in line,” they started lining up at 5:30 a.m. on the day of the clinic, prompting event organizers to start signing up animals for surgery two hours early.

“We expected to have this slowdown period overnight, and that never happened. All night long people showed up,” says Arnold. “We had over a thousand people show up in the first 24 hours.”

Volunteers soldiered on throughout the weekend, surpassing the 48-hour mark. The marathon event, which lasted 56 hours, resulted in 800 pets altered and hundreds more signed up for future low-cost or no-cost spay/neuter surgeries.

About the Author

Bethany Wynn Adams is a senior editor at Animal Sheltering, a quarterly magazine for anyone who cares about the health and happiness of animals and their people, and animalsheltering.org. From tales of shelter mascots to guidance on backyard chickens, Bethany works with experts from across the country and within the Humane Society of the United States to bring wide-ranging, engaging print and web news to the animal welfare community. Winner of the Cat Writers' Association's MUSE Medallion, she lives in Maryland with her husband and two naughty rescue dogs.