You’ve familiarized yourself with your local resources. You know your target areas. Your car is gassed up and packed with goodies. It’s time to get out into the field. Let’s go!
Always be friendly when approaching people: Wave, smile, and introduce yourself. Keep smiling even if your efforts are met with a blank stare or apparent hostility—you’re here to help. Try saying something like this:
Hi. I’m [Name], and I volunteer for community spay/neuter services. How are you today? Last year, our area shelter(s) received [number] unwanted dogs and cats. There are too many animals and not enough homes. And I’m hoping to change that! I work with area clinics and veterinarians to provide our community’s animals with free and low-cost spay/neuter services and vaccines, and this area is on my list as needing help. Do you have any animals? Is this your dog? What do you need help with? May I give your dog a treat? Is she fixed? Do you know anyone on this street who might be looking for some assistance?
For instructions once you meet your canine and feline “clients,” please refer to “Head to Tail: What to Look, Feel, and Smell For,” on this page.
Offer a flyer or card with your name and the best way to reach you. (You can create your own for little cost at DesignYourOwnCard.com.) Feel free to use our “Spay/Neuter Activist” logo! Leave something that will make your visit a pleasant memory: stuffed toys for dogs, a little catnip for felines, and perhaps some informational literature and cookies or mints for the humans.
Take Notes and Stay Organized
Be prepared to write down details about each animal so that you’ll have all of his or her personal information on file when you make a spay/neuter appointment. Do this as soon as you leave the property so you don’t get confused. Record the animal’s name, species, age, color, breed, approximate weight or size (e.g., “Lassie” size, beagle size, etc.), living situation (e.g., penned, chained, running at large in fenced-in yard, indoors/outdoors, etc.), and whether they’re spayed or neutered. Get the responsible party’s first and last names, address, and telephone number. Always ask for a cell phone number, too. If someone tells you that they don’t have a phone, ask for a neighbor’s or relative’s number.
Tip: Create a “case sheet” for each address that you make contact with, and update it after each visit. You’ll be surprised by how many “regulars” you’ll have under your belt before long, and you’ll need an easy and effective system to keep track of them all.
Follow Up, Be Accessible, and Keep Your Promises
Don’t make promises you can’t keep. If you say you’ll call within a week, make sure you do. Your word must be reliable or you’ll quickly lose any ground you’ve gained. Remember: Every spay or neuter surgery saves hundreds of animals. You’re stemming the flow!
- Have a working voicemail with a cheerful and informative outgoing message that includes a 24-hour emergency number for the local animal control agency and an emergency veterinary hospital. Address emergencies immediately, and return non-emergency calls within 24 hours.
- Be prepared to be the point of contact at the veterinary or spay/neuter clinic that you use. You may have to make the appointments, do the reminder calls the night before, get the necessary forms signed, and transport the animal(s).
- Call or stop by 24 to 48 hours after surgery to make sure that the animals are bright and alert and the incision site is clean and healing and to answer any questions.
- Remember that anything you can do to make this a good experience for the animals and their human guardians will be passed along to others by word of mouth.
A Second Chance
It’s inevitable that you’ll run across situations in which you’ll be asked to pick up unwanted animals. Don’t ever hesitate—an unwanted animal is an animal at risk. Turning any such animal away or delaying intake could result in a miserable fate for him or her, such as life at the end of a chain, abandonment, indiscriminate giveaway to a bad home, or even being picked up by a “buncher” to be sold to a laboratory or by a dogfighter to be used as bait. With you, the animal is safe.
For information on placing a companion animal, please refer to our “Finding the Right Home” brochure and “Animal Shelter Checklist: How Does Your Local Shelter Measure Up?”
You Can’t Take Them All Home
It’s always tempting, of course, to take in animals yourself, especially when you are already attached and know the heartbreaking details of their stories. Don’t give in! You have the big picture to consider and countless lives to save. If you tie yourself down with too many animals at home, you won’t be able to focus on your lifesaving work of getting animals spayed and neutered. Many good people already work to find animals new homes, and responsible shelters are equipped to place animals. Your project is unique—and vital—because it targets the source of the problem. Identify a good, responsible shelter that can assess the animals it takes in and provide medical care for easily treatable ailments such as parasite infestations. (Refer to our “Rate Your Local Shelter” page.) What you’d spend to treat just one homeless dog for heartworms, mange, and hookworms, whipworms, or roundworms could sterilize at least 10 dogs and prevent hundreds of thousands of pups from being born into a world where they, too, would suffer from these conditions.
Spaying is cheap. Saving lives is priceless!