Merced nonprofit helps with spay, neutering

April 20, 2011 

N20_SPAY

SUN-STAR PHOTO BY MARCI STENBERG Mary Jo Campodonica, left and Alberta Maher sit with Pumpkin, a dog that was rescued from the Merced County Animal Shelter. The two women run Trails for Happy Tails, a non-profit low-cost spay and neuter organization. They also have a booth at the Merced Antique Mall in downtown Merced, where donated items are sold and the money goes for the spay and neuter program.

MARCI STENBERG — Merced Sun-Star

Dogs and cats can't buy their own birth control.

That's where low-cost spay and neuter programs come in. Mary Jo Campodonica and Alberta Maher, who run the nonprofit program Trails of Happy Tails, want to assist anyone who needs help with spaying and neutering pets during tough economic times.

"We both got started in rescue about 11 years ago, at the old animal shelter," said Campodonica. "We had some time, and we both love animals, and it got to be addictive."

The two women have changed the focus of their organization from rescue to exclusively raising money for spay and neuter funds.

To help raise the cash, the women have received some grants and run a booth at the Merced Antique Mall in downtown Merced. "All of the money we raise goes to the animals," said Maher. "We don't have to pay a commission -- the owners here have been great."

The booth has everything from antiques to collectibles to vintage items, Campodonica said. They welcome donations, especially this time of the year. "It's puppy and kitten season, and we are getting calls every day about animals that need to be spayed or neutered," Campodonica said.

Because this is the time of year when a lot of people do traditional spring cleaning, Maher and Campodonica encourage people to donate unwanted items to the group. "We take pretty much anything except clothes and books," Campodonica said.

The low-cost spaying and neutering is done through Valley Animal Hospital in Merced. Campodonica said the veterinarians have been helpful to the nonprofit.

Animal owners who need help paying for the spay and neuter can contact Trails, and co-pays are figured out by how needy the owners are.

"We're doing about 30 to 40 animals a month," Campodonica said. "These are hard times, and we want to keep pets with people."

For people who don't already have a pet, adopting one from the Merced County Animal Shelter can be a good deal.

"Adopting a dog costs $110, and that includes spaying and neutering, microchipping and all the dog's shots," said Kristi Caseri, animal services supervisor at the shelter. "The fee for cats is $65. You can't start with a free dog and get all that done for that price."

Maher said she knows her organization can't save all animals, but she believes spaying and neutering stops the problem at the beginning. "There's the gratification of saving even just a few of them," Maher said. "We can't save them all, but we can sure make a dent."

To find out about low-cost spaying and neutering, or to donate items to the nonprofit's antique booth, call (209) 384-8388.

Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or creiter@mercedsun-star.com.

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