York County SPCA hopes fewer births will soon mean fewer deaths


A high-volume, low-cost spay/neuter clinic at the York County SPCA has been able to increase the number of surgeries performed every day, reducing the number of unwanted litters and, it's hoped, a corresponding number of euthanasias.

Since the clinic opened in August 2013, the number of surgeries performed there daily has grown from about 20 to an average of about 30, SPCA executive director Melissa Smith said.

The shelter hopes to increase that to 35 a day, she said.

"Prior to opening our high- volume surgical facility, our goal was 5,000 each year," Smith said. "Now our goal is up to 8,000."

The total number of surgeries performed to date is 12,725, Smith said, and the number of unwanted cats and dogs avoiding an uncertain future is exponentially higher.

Studies have shown one female cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 kittens in just seven years, while one female dog and her offspring can produce up to 67,000 puppies in six years, according to Smith.

"The whole goal is to drastically reduce euthanasia," she said, but she added it could take several years or more to see results.

Kitten season: Cats reproduce quickly, especially during the spring and summer, she said.

"From our perspective, we receive three times the amount of cats than we do dogs," Smith said, which is why fixing cats becomes even more crucial during "kitten season."

In the past, that season generally ran between June and August. Now it appears kitten season begins in April and doesn't end until October, according to Smith — and the SPCA does not turn away animals.

Smith said she doesn't know how many euthanasias the shelter has been able to prevent as a result of the high-volume clinic.

"That's an impossible number to even estimate, but ultimately we know we will see a tangible decrease," she said.

Prior to opening the high-volume clinic, it took two vets to perform about 20 surgeries a day, according to Smith. Now, a single veterinarian is performing up to 30 daily, she said.

The Humane Alliance in Asheville, North Carolina, which serves as a model for the York facility and nationwide, was open a decade before seeing a radical decrease in euthanasia, according to SPCA board member Kathy Parks King.

"The Humane Alliance (ultimately) saw a 75 percent decrease in euthanasia," King said.

How it works: People drop off their animals and pick them up later in the same day.

The price to spay a dog ranges from $100 to $180 depending on her weight, Smith said. It costs $95 to neuter a male dog.

The surgeries are free for pit bulls because of the large number of unwanted pit bulls brought to the shelter, King said.

It costs $77 to spay and $55 to neuter pet cats.

Feral cats cost $15 to spay or neuter, and the SPCA will lend out humane traps for a $50 cash deposit so people can capture feral cats, Smith said. The shelter also offers a transport program for feral cat colonies, she said.

Every time a feral cat is fixed, it receives a rabies shot and a feline leukemia test and has an ear "tipped" so rescuers know not to capture it a second time for surgery, according to Smith.

The high-volume spay/neuter clinic is located in the SPCA's Emigsville shelter at 3159 Susquehanna Trail.

To schedule an appointment, call the shelter at (717) 764-6109 or visit

—Reach Brianna Shea at