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Old 03-18-2007, 02:39 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Spay-neuter grant for pit bull-types sought (Houston, TX)

Spay-neuter grant for pit bull-types sought

Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

With statistics showing a steady increase in the number of pit bull-type dogs at its facility, Harris County's Veterinary Public Health Department wants to send a mobile unit to problem areas and offer free spaying for the breed.

And officials would like to pay for it with dollars raised from the sale of the Animal Friendly specialty license plate.

Getting a grant for spay and neuter projects is highly competitive and, for many groups, very challenging.

That's why county officials are hoping the uniqueness of the program and collaboration with SNAP (Spay-Neuter Assistance Program) will increase chances for approval. "In the long run, it's going to help our community," said Colleen Hodges, spokeswoman for Veterinary Public Health. "I think we've got a good shot at it."

Animal welfare groups across the state are working to make the April 16 deadline for proposals to the Department of State Health Services for grants to pay for sterilization programs. About $250,000 is up for grabs in amounts ranging from $1,000 to $75,000. Grants will be awarded Sept. 1.

The money comes from the sale of the license plates, the state's second most popular specialty plate. During the program's four years, almost $1 million has been awarded and nearly 27,000 cats and dogs have been sterilized.

To get a grant an agency has to go through 86 pages of information, and even then preference is given to new programs that do not duplicate existing low-cost spay/neuter programs. The requirements have been enough to deter some agencies.

JoAnne Jackson, director of administrative services for Citizens for Animal Protection, said in her more than two decades of working for animal welfare groups, she has written some successful grant proposals, but this process left her dazed and disappointed.

"It's a government grant and it's written like a government grant. It was extremely disappointing, " said Jackson. "I've never seen anything 86 pages. I don't think my little printer could print it out."

The criticism doesn't just come from local agencies.

Skip Trimble, co-chair of the legislative committee for the Texas Humane Legislative Network, agrees the process can be daunting. He has heard complaints about the process from groups in Dallas and Austin.

The complaints aren't limited to the application. Trimble questions giving priority to upstart programs and says the grant guidelines should be re-evaluated. He believes applications submitted by agencies that have track records should receive equal consideration.

"Right now, the jury is still out on how successful it's been. Did we adopt the right guidelines?" Trimble asked. "What we're trying to do is get animals spayed and neutered. If you have a program that gets the job done, why don't we give you money? It needs to be a balance."

Emily Palmer, a spokeswoman for the Department of State Health Services, said state law sets the priorities for awarding grants, aiming to spread money around the state. She added that officials at the agency can provide technical assistance with an application.

"We do it by the book. We try to make it where all groups are eligible for these grants."

Sean Hawkins, president of Saving Animals Across Borders, said his agency plans to apply for a grant to help fund sterilizations for income-qualifying families for its clinic in Galveston County.

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