SNAPpy New Year from our Executive Director
A Milestone Anniversary Year
2019 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the inception of the Spay-Neuter Assistance Program. In 1994, SNAP founder Sean Hawkins was inspired to make a difference after looking into the eyes of one little puppy who was destined for the same fate as countless others because of pet overpopulation. I have been on the same path, compelled to make a difference and put an end to the useless death of healthy puppies and kittens just because there are not enough homes for them to go to. And my impetus—my “WHY”—originated from a similar situation of personally witnessing healthy, happy dogs and cats being euthanized at shelters because of lack of space to keep them. As we enter 2019, I find my motivation morphing a bit. Originally, I was focused on simply being the best surgeon possible and completing the most surgeries I could in a day, of which I have achieved that goal, as I have completed well over 100,000 spay/neuter surgeries during my career so far.
Then in 2015, I accepted the role of Executive Director at SNAP. At that time, my WHY continued to focus on stopping the useless death in shelters, but realized that I could not do this alone. I became aware that I would help even more by sharing my knowledge and teaching others the techniques and protocols necessary to successfully complete large numbers of spay/neuter surgeries safely for our fur patients, while achieving maximum efficiency. This process involved a reorganization of SNAP to revitalize our protocols and culture so that SNAP could continue to lead the field in competent, compassionate veterinary medicine. Throughout this process I have come to understand that the crux of the entire issue is the Human-Animal Bond. As we embark upon a milestone anniversary year, ending the useless death of dogs and cats will continue to be my driving force and I will focus on approaching this mission from the perspective of strengthening the human-animal bond.
Yes, the reality is that the dogs and cats are not autonomous in the world. While we, in the animal welfare community, work to control the pet population and end the suffering of animals, we must realize that humans are part of the equation. Companion animals make us better people: they give us someone to trust; they never judge; they make us feel wanted. We will be better as a society if we grasp and support human-animal interactions which value the lives on both sides equally.
Rescuing dogs from the streets, spay and neuter, adoption, low-cost vaccines, improving shelter conditions—all of these certainly help to change the lives of animals for the better. Can we have more impact? What if we approach the problem as a whole and support the bond by educating pet owners, ensuring access to affordable veterinary care, and learning to be kind and non-judgmental to others? What if we empower pet custodians to provide a higher level of care for their animal companions? What if we help them understand the basic needs to keep their pets healthy and safe in the home? What if the pets then help the children develop into responsible, caring adults? What if the family unit strengthens because of the bond with the pet? What if we make the world a better place? For me, in this better world where society understands and values animal companionship, my “WHY” would be realized.
Will you join me and SNAP on this transformative journey?
Dr. Mary Kate Lawler, Surgeon and Executive Director
Spay-Neuter Assistance Program, Inc.