Mobile clinic

The inside of the CatSnip mobile clinic is seen. CatSnip is now contracting with Barrow County to provide spay/neuter services to Barrow Animal Control, and the organization's owner says there are plans to offer services to private pet owners as well. 

Renee Cardona says she’s aware of the poor local reviews in the past for CatSnip, the new spay/neuter services provider for Barrow County Animal Control. But Cardona, who took over ownership of the metro Atlanta-based organization in October, added that she’s aiming to change any negative perceptions and is hoping to help the community at large with animal services.

“It’s a different world now for CatSnip,” Cardona told The Barrow News-Journal last week. “I’m not about the almighty dollar. I bought this (organization) knowing I wouldn’t ever be rich. I just care about helping animals.”

CatSnip’s professional services agreement with Barrow County for spay/neuter and other services began on Wednesday, July 1, after the county board of commissioners voted June 9 to end the county’s previous agreement with Leftover Pets for the services after nearly a decade. While issues of programmatic differences and alleged personnel conflicts between the county and Leftover Pets in recent years were raised, the county manager and animal control director said the switch would boost the county’s operational efficiency with higher volumes of surgeries for dogs and cats and quicker animal adoptions and that it would lend the county more opportunities for various special events.

Still, county officials’ recommendation to make the change was met with pushback from Leftover Pets staffers, volunteers and advocates who worried about the impact the lack of the nonprofit’s presence in the county would mean for low-income pet owners in need of spay/neuter services for their animals. Susan Thompson with Leftover Pets said last month the organization provided $29,000 in financial aid to clients last year alone.

Leftover Pets representatives have said they plan to continue operating in Barrow County but will need to find a more affordable lease in the short term in order to do so. The majority of the organization’s private clients are in need of financial assistance, and residents raised questions of whether or not CatSnip would be able to provide a similar level of private services with at least comparable pricing.

Cardona said CatSnip is starting a foundation that will allow the organization obtain more grants for financial aid for clients. In addition, county commissioners approved last week a $15,000 grant for Barrow County Animal Control for those purposes, and animal control director Jaclyn Fryman said she was in the process of applying for another grant.

“We don’t want to leave anyone high and dry. We’re really here to help,” Cardona said, adding that her organization is also committed to an increased presence in the county.

While CatSnip’s online calendar doesn’t specifically mention Barrow County days for July and August, Cardona said days marked “private” are days dedicated to Barrow Animal Control. The organization, which is scheduled to start work in Barrow on Thursday and Friday, July 2-3, also has blocked off other days in July and August in Barrow County and plans to be in Barrow every Saturday next month.

The organization’s 35-foot-long mobile trailer clinic will be stationed next to the animal control building on Barrow Park Drive in Winder, where Cardona said her veterinarian and techs, who have undergone high-volume training, will be able to do surgeries for upward of 30 cats a day.

Addressing the concerns that CatSnip has not been performing spay/neuter surgeries on dogs, Cardona said she is planning to offer the services in Barrow. While the logistics of the trailer make it difficult to do the dogs, the animal shelter has agreed to provide a room for recovery, she said. Cardona said she was also willing to work with private pet owners to transport dogs to the shelter if transportation barriers exist.

“Yes, our clinic is small, but it runs very efficiently,” she said. “We want to be flexible with the community. Transporting the dogs would require some additional steps, but where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

While CatSnip will operate out of the mobile clinic in the immediate future, county manager Mike Renshaw said the county-owned building at 610 Barrow Park Dr., which is still being occupied by Leftover Pets up — the lease agreement doesn’t expire until early September — could eventually be leased to CatSnip.

Though an offer hadn’t been extended as of last week, Cardona said her organization would like the opportunity to be in the building.

“That would mean we could do five or six days a week in Barrow County with our own clinic,” she said. “We’d be able to offer more programming and we’d be able to service the community a lot more and hopefully give them a lot of the same services they’ve been getting.

“We’re very excited to be in Barrow and help the public. This is a really big step for us as an organization. We’ve been around the state but to actually get to help a specific county in this way is great.”

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