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Vermont Spay Neuter Incentive Program (VSNIP)
Photo of Sue Skaskiw with Skinny Minny is from a Valley News article published on Nov. 11, 2012

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.

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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.

Iíve 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 canít 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 couldnít 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 youíll learn about and get involved. Itís 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, ďItís one foot in front of the other - and donít stop - eventually youíll get there.Ē Weíve had the good fortune to meet many good legislators who "get it" (animal welfare issues) and theyíre willing to work, represent them, and help others understand. Weíve 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 Iíve 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 itís giving people an opportunity to know that they can effect change, to make something different. We can all reach out and make things happen!

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Created in 2006, the Vermont Spay Neuter Incentive Program (VSNIP) enables income eligible people that provide care for cats and dogs to receive financial assistance in which to have these animals neutered and vaccinated.

Vermont has a surplus animal population that forces the euthanasia of otherwise healthy, adoptable companion animals. According to the latest available statistics, nearly 3,000 animals were euthanized in one year, due in part to this problematic situation.

Recognizing that the price of sterilization surgery is cost prohibitive for low-income households, a legislative solution was sought. A plan similar to the successful assistance program of New Hampshire, in which humane shelters recognized a 75% drop in their euthanasia rate after ten years of their state assistance program`s operation, was drafted in Vermont. It passed the legislature with overwhelming support from humane societies, veterinarians, and voters. VSNIP currently has 80 points of service statewide participating in the program.

A yearly $3.00 charge to the registration fee for dog licenses supports this program. This modest increase creates a designated fund allowing those on social assistance programs, such as SSD, Food Stamps, Section 8, Medicaid, etc., to obtain financial assistance for these important procedures. The associated costs for vaccinations and surgery are reduced at the participating offices, and the fees are paid to the veterinarians through the designated fund. Clients are responsible for a $25.00 co-payment for each animal. To date, the over eighty offices that have joined this visionary program represent the majority of Vermont veterinarians that provide care for companion animals.

VSNIP is under the directive of the VT Agency of Human Services. The program evolved through a statewide spay neuter program created by VT Volunteer Services for Animals Humane Society in 1986. To receive an application please call 1-855-478-7647. If you experience any problems, please call 802-672-5302.

For the story of "How the VSNIP Logo was Created", please click here: VSNIP Logo

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