MARIPOSA -- With a Lennon Sisters song in the background, Rose Pate sorted used clothing at the Mariposa SPCA on Thursday morning.
Pate is a volunteer at the nonprofit that finds homes for hundreds of dogs and cats a year, but she got involved as a volunteer in a unique program the SPCA started about three months ago.
Mariposa residents who can't afford to spay or neuter their pets can have the surgery paid for by the SPCA. But it isn't quite free -- the pet owner has to donate eight hours of volunteering at the shelter to pay for their pet's care.
"The SPCA paid for my dog to get spayed," said Pate. "I saw the animals here, and how clean and wonderful the shelter is, so I kept on volunteering after my hours were through."
Jeanette Lozano, manager of the SPCA, said about 40 people have signed up for the program. "People come and sign up and then work as many hours at a time as they can," she said. "They punch a time card and when they have enough hours, they get a voucher to get their pet spayed or neutered."
Lozano said she thinks the program is definitely working. "We've seen a decrease in the number of puppies this year," she said. "We've had no litters at all -- we've never had that before."
And the program ends up helping the shelter in another way. "We're getting people who keep volunteering after their hours are worked."
Pat Stacy, president of the SPCA, said the program, called the Juanita Moore Volunteer Spay/Neuter Program, was started after SPCA member Juanita Moore left property to the shelter in her will.
"She owned property the county ended up buying from us," Stacy said. "Juanita was a lifetime member, and an animal lover. She would be glad to see the money used for this program."
The SPCA is not just a shelter for animals, it's also one of the most popular places in Mariposa for people looking for bargains. The shelter has an ongoing yard sale, with people donating everything from books to clothes.
Thursday morning, an entire houseful of furniture was being unloaded at the shelter after having been donated. Volunteers wash clothing, sort through books, and display items for sale.
"People who are working in the spay-neuter program don't clean kennels or do anything dirty," Lozano said. "They're sweeping or sorting clothes or walking animals."
The shelter has a reputation for helping both animals and people. "One man came in and volunteered and we gave him food for his pet," Lozano said.
The shelter donates much to the community, including giving free athletic equipment to kid's programs.
The shelter is a no-kill facility, Lozano said. "The longest we've had to keep an animal is about four months," she said. "People come from the Bay Area to adopt our animals."
Lozano said she thinks county animal shelters could start a program like what the SPCA is doing to help people who are struggling financially. "We have to start at the beginning -- we have to spay and neuter. That's the only way to stop the number of animals going to shelters."
The spay-neuter program is open to all Mariposa residents. For more information, call the shelter at (209) 966-5275.
Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or email@example.com.