Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Friday, Feb. 10 @ 3:47 p.m. / Animals, Community

After Receiving Complaints, Mobile Vet Pulls Plug On Spay-Neuter Clinic, Potentially Putting a DN Humane Society Grant in Jeopardy

Thanks to a grant from U.C. Davis, the Humane Society of Del Norte began offering low-cost spays and neuters for dogs and cats. | Flyer courtesy of the Humane Socity

For years, local Humane Society volunteers have worked within what money they could fundraise to help Del Norters spay and neuter their pets.

When Eileen Bennett, the Humane Society of Del Norte’s vice president and shelter manager, learned in October that California For All Animals was prepared to award the organization a total of $385,200 to help more animals, she cried.

“People have no idea how many hours we put in trying to help the animals of our community,” she told the Wild Rivers Outpost on Thursday. “To have that kind of a grant award will give us the ability to help probably 1,000 more people — maybe more — every year. (It) is amazing."

Funded through the fiscal year 2020-21 state budget, California For All Animals is a U.C. Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program grant. The Humane Society of Del Norte had initially applied for a one-year grant of $128,400 to hold monthly spay-neuter clinics. California For All Animals committed to three years, Bennett said.

However, after one pet owner complained on Facebook about a negative experience involving her kitten, Public Vet, the organization that provides those monthly spay-neuter services, decided it would not participate in February’s clinic. It was canceled as a result.

Bennett said she worries that if the Humane Society can’t double the number of animals it’s able to spay and neuter, the organization may lose its grant.

“This grant is for the purpose of increasing our ability to help,” she said. “Our numbers for last year were approximately 1,100 spays and neuters. Our grant report needs to reflect that we’re able to double that because the money they gave us is enough to double our numbers. If we don’t meet our grant goals or at least come close, we may not get the second year’s funding.”

Thanks to the California For All Animals grant, the Humane Society of Del Norte had been offering to spay or neuter a cat for $20, which includes their rabies vaccine, flea treatment, de-wormer and ear-mite preventatives. The Humane Society pays the other $85, Larsen-Wheeler said. Dogs range from $50-75 depending on their size.

The Humane Society receives about 3,000 phone calls for vet assistance a year, Larsen-Wheeler said.

The Humane Society usually works with local vets, including Dr. Mark Franusich at Four Paws Pet Hospital, Crescent Animal Medical Center, Brookings-Harbor Veterinary Hospital and Town & Country Animal Clinic in Brookings. Its president, Danielle Larsen-Wheeler, even drives to S/Nipped in Coos Bay to help people get their pets fixed.

Though the organization has worked with Public Vet before, Larsen-Wheeler reached out to ask if they’d be willing to perform the surgeries for their monthly clinics because getting an appointment with a local vet is difficult, Bennett said.

Public Vet is a Bloomington, Indiana-based nonprofit. It began bringing its “NeuterScooter” on the Hoopa Reservation in 2007, according to a Jan. 22 Facebook post.

Public Vet’s founder, Dr. Tess Peavy, has an active veterinary license from Indiana that was issued in 2000 and expires in October 2023. She is also licensed in Ohio and Georgia.

Peavy's daughter, Dr. Aria Armendariz, has a California license and is the veterinarian the Humane Society has contracted with to perform the surgeries at its spay-neuter clinics this year, according to Bennett.

Armendariz performed the surgery on Glorya Ewing’s cat, Bijou, at the Humane Society’s January clinic at Elk Valley Head Start on Norris Avenue, which is within the Elk Valley Rancheria, Bennett said.

On Jan. 23, Ewing posted on Facebook that her cat got “appropriate and timely treatment for issues arising from his neuter surgery.” It took him a week to recover, but he’s OK, Ewing said. Ewing said she’s now focusing on finding sponsorships to spay-neuter the 100 or so people who were scheduled to get their pets spayed or neutered at the February clinic.

“My heart is sick as I have been bombarded by photos of animals with poor stitch jobs, infections etc., etc. The public outcry has overwhelmed me,” Ewing said in her Facebook post. “We need to get our animals fixed in order to keep them well and happy. I think our community can come together and do better.”

Ewing could not be reached for comment on Friday.

In response to Ewing’s concerns, the Triplicate ran an article on Feb. 3 quoting Larsen-Wheeler that because the clinics are taking place on sovereign land, Peavy’s lack of a California veterinary license wasn’t an issue.

It’s a statement Bennett repeated to the Outpost on Thursday, but she reiterated that the Humane Society didn’t contract with Peavy to do the surgeries at its 2023 grant-funded spay-neuter clinics.

“We didn’t contact Dr. Peavy,” Bennett said. “We didn’t find a loophole to bring an unlicensed veterinarian into our area.”

On Thursday, Peavy told the Outpost that she had been licensed in Oregon was performing surgeries on about 100 animals in Gold Beach when a retired veterinarian submitted a complaint to the state even though he hadn’t brought his animal to the clinic. Disciplinary action was taken against Peavy at about the time she was going to apply for her California license.

“They had a policy that any vet that had previous actions with any board in any state had to get a probationary license,” she said. “I couldn’t find a single clinic who wanted to work with me. I get it. I wouldn’t want to hire me either. I couldn’t find a job and I wasn’t in a position to bring Public Vet off reservations because COVID had hit.”

Peavy said her organization employs veterinarians who have just graduated and obtained their license to practice. Public Vet follows the One Health, a global health model, that identifies pet over population as a “problem that faces humanity.” However, over the years, Peavy said she and her family became sick with flea- and tick-borne illnesses, including Lyme disease and Bartonella.

“What we started doing was using the clinics as a source for raising awareness and then treating,” Peavy told the Outpost. “(The animals) get fixed and we do essential services, which means whatever the doctor needs. We send everybody home flea-free and if it’s an indoor cat, we get them treatment to get their houses cleaned up. We’re trying to develop infrastructures and communities to work with other organizations.”

In response to Ewing’s concerns, Armendariz said in a Jan. 22 Facebook post that the February clinics in Del Norte County were canceled because she felt uncomfortable “working in a community where so much hate and hostility has been raised.”

Armendariz also addressed a complaint from Ewing about a post-operative conversation the pet owner had with Peavy and her unwillingness to send a video of her cat to Public Vet.

“It is a protocol for all our post-operative calls that we receive a video of our patient(s),” Armendariz wrote, adding that this helps the vet properly advise their clients. “We may refer them to a local vet and cover the expenses if we ourselves cannot provide the care for any reason. In this situation, we were unable to receive the video from you due to a lack of compliance, so we were unable to follow through with the care. We need to be able to work with our clients to provide the best care we possibly can.”

Armendariz wrote that Bijou had received antibiotics from another vet and hoped he was “happy and healthy.”

She also pointed out that veterinary clinics are overwhelmed nationwide and the need often can’t be met locally.

“The need in Del Norte is great, but I am not going to be able to assist at this time,” she said.

Even though the February clinic was canceled, Bennett said people are still calling to ask for help getting their animals spayed and neutered. One came from a woman who has a male and female dog and is trying to avoid a litter of puppies. Though she sees a local veterinarian, Bennett said, he can’t schedule a surgery until October.

Bennett said she also picked up a littler of nine puppies and reached out to South Coast Humane Society in Brookings for help. Jenifer Alcorn urged Bennett to bring them in.

As it currently stands, Bennett said, the Humane Society of Del Norte won’t know how the current conflict will affect next year’s California For All Grant until the organization submits its grant report at the end of 2023. The Humane Society has already spent $30,000 of that money, she said.

“I feel strongly we can get through this,” Bennett told the Outpost. “We will get through this. We haven’t stopped. We won’t stop helping the community.”


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