It all started with a canine named Rocket.
According to Chantele Gonzalez, it was this stray dog — given the space-touting name by the Robertson Countian, herself, that inadvertently ignited a local non-profit into orbit.
It’s called Critter Fixers, established in 2018.
Years back, Gonzalez, a pet owner herself, had found the dog wandering near her home and took him in. Naming him, she attempted to place him at an animal rescue where he could eventually land a home.
But the rescue required Rocket to be neutered before Gonzalez could bring him, and in order to qualify for surgery, he also needed vaccinations.
The cost to do the good deed and hopefully see Rocket adopted could quickly top $500 at a veterinarian office, which Gonzalez said just wasn’t an option.
She chose to keep Rocket for about a month, until an affordable spay and neuter clinic not far from Lebanon could see him. This was where Gonzalez was able to get him neutered and go and receive his shots at a cost she could swing a lot easier.
In the end, Rocket went to the rescue where he was eventually adopted to a good home.
“Why do we not have this here?” Gonzalez recalled thinking, implying as to the existence of an affordable, local spay and neuter clinic.
Surely others in the county have faced the same dilemma, she said.
Thus was the birth of Critter Fixers in Robertson County.
Since its inception, Critter Fixers, which is solely supported by grants and donations, has provided financial assistance and access to affordable spay and neuter facilities, where a surgery can average between $60 and $65 — costing even lower depending on whether it’s a cat or dog and its sex.
Gonzalez said the main driver to see animals spayed and neutered is “the overall pet population and thousands of animals being euthanized.”
The website for the Sumner Spay and Neuter Alliance, for example, shows the effects of having a local, affordable spay and neuter clinic. It details that the number of animals euthanized in that county had dropped 67 percent by 2019, since the clinic’s opening in 2011.
Additionally, having animals “fixed,” as commonly termed, also helps reduce aggression, lower the risks of cancer, and helps male cats stop spraying, Gonzalez added.
“We are just over 850 (animals served) since 2018; it sounds good, but it’s not enough,” she said. “Two-month wait, pre-COVID. You can imagine if there was a two-month wait list then; you can imagine where we are now.”
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Critter Fixers worked with the Summer Spay and Neuter Alliance in Gallatin where they would load just under 30 animals monthly into a transport van to be sent there for surgery — with the canines and felines returning to their families the following day.
But in fall of 2020, COVID-19 put a stop to transports, Gonzalez said, and the Gallatin clinic began seeing only those animals local to Sumner County due to demand.
The situation has also squashed Critter Fixers’ “Trap Neuter Return” program that was addressing the stray cat population.
While the non-profit can still provide financial assistance for clients to use at other spay and neuter clinics in Franklin, Ky., Clarksville and Lebanon, many, she said, don’t have transportation or simply cannot take off work for a day trip.
“The last year has pretty much killed Critter Fixers,” Gonzalez added.
That being said, the long-term goal Gonzalez had to eventually see Critter Fixers open an affordable spay and neuter clinic in Robertson County has come to the forefront.
She’s been trying to make a stronger push and awareness locally for the need — noting that the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) provides a step-by-step process to opening a facility, including functions and costs.
“It’s basically a spay and neuter in a box,” Gonzalez added. “We just need the facility and the money.”
She noted that a local spay and neuter clinic should not affect Robertson County veterinarians’ businesses adversely.
“Seventy percent of animals that have been fixed (via Critter Fixers) have never been to the vet,” Gonzalez said.
“We are not in any way hurting a vet business, because these are animals they were never going to see.”
Gonzalez recently sat down with The Connection to share what it would take to see a facility open locally:
Tell us about some things Critter Fixers has been doing to raise funds for a local spay and neuter clinic.
“We have $5 Fridays on Facebook. In the month of April, we raised $1,400. We just asked people to donate $5 on Fridays. We had many who donated more, but the $5 added up. In May was the Big Payback. That’s a big fundraiser by the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. We raised almost $6,000. It’s a 24-hour online giving. We participated before, but we weren’t as aggressive in the past as this year. We have $5 Fridays every Friday in June, and I’m going to keep it going as long as people donate. That donate button is always on there; it doesn’t have to be every Friday.”
How much does Critter Fixers need for a spay and neuter clinic to open and begin offering services in Robertson County?
“We need approximately $200,000 to $250,000. That will cover beginning salaries, all the equipment, and lease for the first couple of months. That’s a gray area (the dollar amount) because that’s if we buy everything brand new — no grants and nothing donated to us.”
What services would the clinic offer?
“Spay and neuter. This will provide vaccines and microchipping at the time of surgery. Once we get our footing, I do want to provide a monthly — if not weekly — low-cost vaccine clinic, but that would be later.”
Would there be a full-time veterinarian on staff who would do the surgeries, provide other services and how often?
“All surgeries would be provided by a licensed veterinarian. That’s the law. When the time comes, we’ll find out if there’s one or several that rotate days.”
Is there a location in mind for such a facility?
“Personally, I’d like it to be in Springfield — to north Springfield. Looking at our customer base, a lot of customers are from Springfield, but a lot of clients are from the Cedar Hill area. But if someone in Ridgetop called and said we could have a facility there, I’d take it.”
How can the public, groups or local businesses help?
“Obviously money. Donations. We have approached the county to see if they would rent us a building at a reasonable rate. There are county buildings around. But we never received a response. You can contact your alderman, and you can contact the mayor and tell them we need a spay and neuter facility.”
For more information about Critter Fixers or to donate, go to https://www.facebook.com/Critter-Fixers-439445069895520 or email at email@example.com.