Vermont Spay Neuter Incentive Program (VSNIP)
From The Valley News, November 11, 2012:
The Cause By Sarah Priestap
The Woman: Sue Skaskiw, of Bridgewater
The Cause: Vermont Volunteer Services for Animals Humane Society
The Means: Offering spaying and neutering services for stray animals and, at a reduced price, for dogs and cats belonging to low-income individuals; finding new homes for pets and farm animals; working with state legislators to pass animal-welfare laws; working with local law enforcement officials on animal cruelty cases; and educating the public through the TV program For The Animals, found on the VVSA website, vvsahs.org.
The Impetus: Skaskiw founded VVSA in 1986, after working with a local veterinarian to spay and neuter and care for cats that lived on a nearby property. The Vermont Spay and Neuter Incentive Program (VSNIP), originally begun by VVSA under legislation adopted eight years ago and previously administered by VVSA, is now a state program funded with money generated by dog licenses. Since its founding, VVSA has grown to be a multi-service organization.
In her interview with Sarah Priestap, Sue Skaskiw relayed that Dr. Lynn Murrell was the first vet that VVSA worked with (to provide reduced-rate spay and neutering for animals), and from there, they added more veterinarian offices throughout the state. Between 33 and 35 vet offices agreed to reduce their rates for the people who would be screened through VVSA’s program.
I’ve learned in the process (to help) people better the lives of their animals, and not just do all of the work myself. People need to have a vested interest. They need to help earn the money for needed procedure, and understand what it takes to care for their animals. Through VSNIP, it is currently a $25 co-pay to have an animal spayed and neutered. The state pays the balance. However, sometimes there are people who can’t even afford that co-payment, and we ask what they can do to help. If they can help, we will provide that opportunity. We recently helped a family with 20 or so cats, when they couldn’t pay the co-payment, and a volunteer from VVSA transported every cat for their surgery. Truly we have met wonderful people over the years.
The more like-minded people you meet, the more similar issues you’ll learn about and get involved. It’s like a loaf of bread, and how many slices you choose to take from the loaf. First you may care about spay and neuter, and then, perhaps, you hear about animal trapping or another issue. It depends on what resonates in your heart.
Truly, whatever we set as our goals, over time, we are able to achieve. Like a friend of mine once said, “It’s one foot in front of the other – and don’t stop – eventually you’ll get there.” We’ve had the good fortune to meet many good legislators who “get it” (animal welfare issues) and they’re willing to work, represent them, and help others understand. We’ve seen laws change, created our own TV show (For The Animals – on VT public access stations), and worked on the VVSA spay and neuter program that evolved into VSNIP, and to take matters into whatever direction is most needed.
The biggest change I’ve seen through my work in VVSA is that people have had the opportunity come together from different places. Not everyone is interested in every issue. But it’s giving people an opportunity to know that they can effect change, to make something different. We can all reach out and make things happen!