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New low-cost spay/neuter clinic opens to serve Fox Valley-area animals

Thanks to the Fox Valley Animal Welfare League, Reno, an eight-month-old orange tabby kitten, survived to find his "forever home" (photo: FVAWL).

Thanks to the Fox Valley Animal Welfare League, Reno, an eight-month-old orange tabby kitten, survived to find his "forever home" (photo: FVAWL).

Only eight months old, Reno found himself lost and alone. Even worse he was injured: Something was wrong with his eyes, one of his back legs had been fractured, the other back leg needed surgery.

Worse yet, baby Reno had pellets shattered inside his body: He had been shot several times.

However, Reno, a male orange tabby kitten, survived it all. Aurora Animal Control (AAC) and Fox Valley Animal Welfare League (FVAWL) helped the homeless kitten find a rescue group, medical care and ultimately a “forever home.”

A non-profit organization, FVAWL has partnered with AAC for the past 65 years to help lost, forgotten and injured animals find love and care.

“We were the liaison between AAC and the rescue groups,” said FVAWL President Ellen Wullbrandt, adding that with FVAWL’s help during the past five years, 2,500 animals have escaped euthanasia. “That’s really what it’s been: saving animals from euthanasia.”

Branching out to serve a larger target audience

Today, in addition to its long-time life-saving operations, FVAWL is branching out on its own and taking animal welfare to the next level—becoming proactive–by opening the Fox Valley’s first state-of-the-art low-cost spay-neuter clinic.

“We need to grow and provide programs and services marketed toward the animals never [even] getting to the shelter,” said Richard Glessner, director of operations for the new spay/neuter clinic. “It was a no-brainer that the spay/neuter clinic was the way to go because spaying/neutering is the only real answer to limiting the pet population.

“That’s been proven time and time again; it’s the only thing that works,” he said. “We wanted to take the resources and the medical knowledge we have to the public and the community as a whole rather than limit it to [just] AAC.”

Glessner, who has previously set up two profitable clinics—one in the Quad Cities and one in Rock Island County, Illinois—emphasized the need for a spay/neuter clinic in the Fox Valley area, from Elgin to Joliet and all communities in between.

“It’s inconceivable to me if you are in animal welfare as a whole, and you really care about animal welfare, why you would not incorporate a spay/neuter program,” said Glessner, adding that his first program involved converting a trailer into a mobile surgical center outside the animal shelter.

“If you really want to do this and make a difference, you can make it happen,” the former Quad Cities native said. “You have to really think creatively.”

Glessner: helping animals for more than a quarter century

In addition to setting up spay/neuter clinics, Glessner, a 26-year animal welfare industry veteran, has served as a director for shelters and animal control facilities; he has spoken at national animal welfare conferences.

And he has spoken to first-year Iowa State veterinary students about how to set up a spay/neuter clinic and why they should consider a career in shelter medicine, rather than private practice.

“If you really want to help animals, you bite the bullet, and you do it,” he said. “You do what you need to do to change animal welfare and make it right.

“That’s always been my philosophy. I’m not afraid of change; I embrace it.”

Initiating change in the Fox Valley

As a result, change has come to the Fox Valley: 11 John Street in North Aurora, just east of Illinois Route 31 and only about two miles from Interstate 88.

“We looked at several different properties, and the minute we walked into this building, we knew it was the perfect place,” Glessner said. “It is the right size, the right space [and] the owners are animal lovers.”

The clinic director says he has already lined up four veterinarians, including one specializing in exotic animals, such as rabbits, birds, iguanas and ferrets. “They are affected just like cats and dogs,” he said. “[These exotic animals] are showing up in the shelters [too].”

Glessner says his goal by the Feb. 28 ribbon cutting is threefold: to perform surgery three days each week; to host at least one or more Wellness Clinic each month; and to reserve two days for the care of exotic animals each month.

“And then it will grow from there,” he said. “My ultimate goal would be to serve seven days a week, around the clock, never stop. Surgeries every day.”

Glessner, who grew up with German Shepherds and cats, says the clinic will feature three different price structures for three different groups: licensed rescue groups, low-income families and the general public.

“Generally, 80 percent of pet owners don’t use regular veterinary care,” he said. “We are really targeting that group of people who aren’t going to private practice.

“We’ll do whatever is in the best interest of the animal—that’s our first and foremost philosophy.”

NEXT: FVAWL’s Pet Food Pantry to help owners keep pets during difficult economic times.

Fox Valley Animal Welfare League’s NEW Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Clinic
You’re Invited!

• Saturday, Jan. 21–First Wellness Clinic—open to the community; offers basic exams
& basic preventative care, including $10 vaccines

• Sunday, Jan. 29—Open House for the general public: 1-3 p.m., refreshments served

• Wednesday, Feb. 15—Open House for government officials, community leaders &
media: 5-7 p.m., refreshments served

• Tuesday, Feb. 28—National Spay Day; ribbon-cutting ceremony; clinic officially
opens for business

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