Woods open with dedicated spay and neuter clinic for North County

Staff of the new Woods Humane Society Spay and Neuter Clinic in Atascadero, in order from left to right: Leslie Sklena, DVM — Director of Veterinary Services; Robyn Schmidt, DVM — Clinic Veterinarian; Tyler Hogan — Surgical Assistant; Alessandra Belloumini — Clinic Manager; Kelly Pratt — RVT Supervisor (Registered Veterinary Technician); Adriana Rivas — Surgical Assistant. (Photo by Camas Frank)

ATASCADERO — Already open for the better part of a month after a soft opening in November, the new Woods Humane Society Daphne Fahsing Spay and Neuter Clinic is offering state-of-the-art care for “owned” dogs and cats as well as discounted services for the region’s “community” cat population.

The Woods Humane Society nonprofit organization is supported by donations, grants, bequests, fundraising events and fees for services, but, notes staff, the quality of care, and those fees, are heavily subsidized by the first four funding mechanisms.

Founded in 1955, the organization has a long history south of the Cuesta Grade, both with and independent of San Luis Obispo County support, but they gained a new presence in Atascadero in 2017. On Jan. 1, that year Woods merged with the North County Humane Society and took on operating two facilities in the County.  In addition to the refurbishment of the North County shelter, they recently completed expansion with construction of the new clinic in a modular structure with new installations and equipment.

Leslie Sklena, DVM and their director of Veterinary Services, explained that she’d only been aboard since just after the merger but was happy to be included in the outpouring of community support around the new location.

“I’ve only been working on this or a year and a half but a significant number of community members have approached me saying, ‘Thank you. We’ve been waiting 20 years for this,’” she said, adding that the brand new facilities are far superior to the ones she had access to when beginning her studies in veterinary medicine. “This area is unique in that they’ve been waiting for so long for us. So it’s exciting for a former Cal Poly student to come back and be a part of this community again, and to be a part of a program that really works has been super rewarding.”

Alessandra Belloumini, Clinic Manager, came to the facility from San Francisco and notes that one of the primary missions of the site is tackling a feral cat population issue, which San Luis Obispo County shares with the Bay Area metropolis despite vastly different geography.

In addition to a ranged price list for getting different sized dogs snipped [$100 to $200], chipped [$20] and vaccinated [$10 to $18] and a set $50 for owned cats, there’s a discounted $25 fee for bringing in a neighborhood feral or “community” cat.

“That’s for cats without owners but who you want to bring back to the territory they’ve been living in,” she said, adding that vaccination of strays provides herd immunity for cats that do come inside at night as well as stabilizing the population with spaying and neutering, “the cat colonies are going to form even if we euthanized all the cats in an area, there will always be more to take over once cats have been living there.”

The Woods program gives a little preventative care for animals that may never see another vet in their lives Sklena added, noting that while there are easily “tens of thousands” of cats living unnoticed in rural areas, “this clinic is meant for otherwise healthy animals so we’re here to serve a very specific community need.”

She also wanted to address the idea that strays, shelter animal and “owned” animals might get different treatment, “in the past there has been a misconception of what a low-cost clinic is.”

The multimodal pain management that’s a standard of care costs the same across the board and the capital costs for the surgical equipment are all part of the nonprofit’s operating costs she adds, but community support helps them provide high-quality care to all with about 15 operations scheduled per day at the Romona Road location.

Residents of Atascadero are eligible for a $25 discount when they bring in their dog or cat as part of existing funding allocations the City made to address the issue of unowned pet overpopulation.

Information and appointments are available through the North County Woods Humane Society office at 805-464-5034 or email infonorth@woodshumanesociety.org.

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Staff of the new Woods Humane Society Spay and Neuter Clinic in Atascadero, in order from left to right: Leslie Sklena, DVM — Director of Veterinary Services; Robyn Schmidt, DVM — Clinic Veterinarian; Tyler Hogan — Surgical Assistant; Alessandra Belloumini — Clinic Manager; Kelly Pratt — RVT Supervisor (Registered Veterinary Technician); Adriana Rivas — Surgical Assistant. (Photo by Camas Frank)


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