Kirksville-Protect Our Pets is making a big impact on Kirkville’s pet community, and hopes to continue its efforts in its upcoming spay and neuter events.
KV-POP is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit, volunteer-based public charity which provides financial assistance to those who cannot afford the cost of spaying or neutering their pets. Since its start, the organization has helped spay and neuter over 1,000 pets.
KV-POP is holding its annual World Spay Day events from 4-6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 25 at the Adair County Public Library and from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Feb. 29 at the Schuyler County Public Library.
During these events, KV-POP gives away up to two coupons per household for $25 off the cost of spaying or neutering. Individuals who require further financial assistance are able to fill out applications online, and if financial need is evident, the organization can provide more aid. When considering the ever-present homeless cat population here in Kirksville, it might seem like organizations like KV-POP have limited impact, but Bridget Thomas, president of KV-POP and a professor at Truman State University, said its efforts have seen great success.
“In 2013 we started, and we’ve helped over 1,299 pets,” Thomas said. “This will be our seventh spring event.”
Nearly 98 pets alone were fixed during KV-POP’s spring campaign last year, and the organization hopes to give away over 100 spay/neuter coupons this year, Thomas said.
For Thomas, the mission of KV-POP is a personal one.
“One spring [when I was volunteering at the shelter] there were 15 pregnant animals,” Thomas said. “What do you do when there are 15 cages filled with vulnerable newborns? And you know that they’re going to have to hang out in that cage for eight weeks? And then you’re going to have to find homes for all those adults and all those babies. I thought, ‘We have to prevent this.’ The solution was obvious. Spay and neuter.”
Wanting to take action, Thomas joined the Board of Directors for the Adair County Humane Society in 2007, where an active spay/neuter program was already in place. The Humane Society would give out $50 coupons to those in need, but eventually the cost of the operation became too much. Wanting to focus their funds solely on shelter costs, the Humane Society decided to stop offering the coupons. The same day those efforts ceased, Thomas quit the Board and started KV-POP, which she described as similar to the Humane Society’s previous efforts but more cost effective.
With the help of Sherri Palmer, the founder of Field of Dreams Rescue and retired Truman professor, KV-POP was formed. Today, Thomas said the organization has 20 members who pay membership fees, roughly 10 volunteers and a Board of Directors consisting of five people.
Since its start in July 2013, KV-POP has issued 758 vouchers covering the entire cost of spaying/neutering, Thomas said. Additionally, 364 $25 off coupons — not including the coupons distributed during the organization’s spring campaigns — have also been given out.
The event normally sees lines extending out of the building, so those interested in receiving coupons are advised to arrive early. Upon arrival, individuals consult with either Thomas or another member of the Board, where information is collected regarding the owner’s name and the pet’s name and gender.
While the organization mainly focuses its efforts on annual World Spay Day events held every spring, its assistance doesn’t stop there. KV-POP also attends the annual NEMO Community Connect event, which is held the first Friday of each October.
The NEMO Community Connect is another 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization founded in 2013 with the goal of connecting families at risk of homelessness to community resources. While spaying and neutering make up a large portion of KV-POP’s efforts, the group also utilizes these additional events to support its second major focus, which is providing tags for pets free of charge.
“They have all kinds of different nonprofits and other services in one room so that people who are struggling with home insecurity can come and visit and get help,” Thomas said. “We can help by giving them a collar with a tag with the dog’s name on it. It’s something that can make their family feel more secure.”
Thomas said some people have the misconception that pet owners don’t spay or neuter their animals because they don’t know any better given the rural community of Kirksville.
The main issue, Thomas said, is really cost, which is reflected in the presence of events such as NEMO Community Connect.
“We know we’re living in a low income area,” Thomas said. “We know that it’s not because people don’t know any better, it’s really that they just need a little help financially.”
Despite their name, which was chosen as to prevent any confusion with the Northeast Missouri Humane Society in Hannibal, Missouri, the efforts of KV-POP are not limited to only Kirksville. Thomas said the organization has a 30 mile reach in all directions.
KV-POP is often present at many of the large community gatherings held in Kirksville throughout the year in an attempt to always be available to those who need help locally. These events also allow KV-POP to push its efforts in providing pet tags alongside its spay/neuter coupons and vouchers.
“We’ll often be at the [Kirksville Kiwanis] Farmers’ Market with all of our stuff,” Thomas said. “We have this tool kit where we can write the animal’s name and get the phone number on a tag and hand that to somebody for free. That tag makes a pretty important part of our outreach.”
When considering other ways to support the homeless pet community outside of donating to or volunteering at local animal organizations, Thomas said that feeding strays is always nice, but not necessarily the only thing that can be done. While cat kibble alone can be costly, KV-POP is always willing to assist in the cost of spaying and neutering any potential strays.
“It is kind to feed cats if you see them struggling on the streets,” Thomas said. “But if you feed them, you should fix them.”
During its Feb. 25 and Feb. 29 events, KV-POP has 250 available $25 off coupons for those with pets in need. For more information on this event, be sure to check out the group’s Facebook page, KV-POP Protect Our Pets.