SAN ANTONIO — Becky Jones is so passionate about reducing the feral cat population in Pasco County that she found herself coercing her nearly 70-year-old mother to sit in a dog cage.
It's one of the plans that Jones, practice manager for the San Antonio Animal Hospital and a board member for Spay Pasco, has to raise money. Her mom — who also dressed as Santa at the animal hospital this year — and the aforementioned cage will be at Spay Pasco's booth at the Dade City Cruise-In on April 5.
Jones had the idea that people could donate money to the nonprofit organization, with the crux that her mom won't be let out of the cage until they reach a certain amount of donations, say, 100 bucks or so. It's like a PBS telethon, except with Charlie Rose locked in a booth.
"Who could walk past and let an old lady stay in a cage?" Jones said, jokingly and with affection. She and her mom choose to find the good in life and are up for anything, if it saves the lives of animals.
This will be Spay Pasco's first time staffing a booth at the Cruise-In, which has antique cars and food and vendors from 3 to 8 p.m. the first Saturday of each month in downtown Dade City. Spay Pasco, which began last summer and has a goal of spaying and neutering all the feral cats in eastern Pasco, is gaining force. It has more volunteers (though it always needs more) and its own building on the grounds of the animal hospital. A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the building will be at noon Tuesday, with light refreshments served.
Dr. Diana Joyner-Mattox founded Spay Pasco and she volunteers her time every Friday to do the spay and neuter surgeries. Volunteers trap and transport the cats to the hospital. Though Spay Pasco, right now, focuses on feral cat colonies in eastern Pasco, it will later include cats and dogs across the county and will work toward legislation aimed at getting the stray animal population to zero.
Joyner-Mattox said more than 10,000 cats and dogs are euthanized in Pasco County each year because there is no place for them. And the veterinarian can't stand it that healthy animals are being killed just because they don't have a home. Spay Pasco offers low-cost spay and neutering for the animals of people who otherwise couldn't afford it. The fee is $25 per cat, which barely covers the cost of the procedure — not including time spent catching and transporting the kitties.
Since December, Spay Pasco has spayed or neutered 60 cats, which has saved thousands of lives, if not millions, because of the frequency with which cats reproduce.
"We are reducing the euthanasia rate in Pasco County," Jones said.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4609.