If you told Goldie Arnold in 2010 that she would be neck deep in feral cats most Saturdays, she would have laughed at you. This realtor turned animal activist never anticipated becoming the spearhead in a community effort to offer spay and neutering services to low-income families, but since 2012, that's what she and the Northland Animal Welfare Society (NAWS) have done.
The organization began as a dream of a facility that would offer a dog park, vet services, and more, and slowly, they are realizing that dream. After opening their first clinic in Riverside in 2012, they finally found a forever home at 6972 N. Broadway with their Spay/Neuter Clinic.
NAWS is almost entirely staffed by volunteers, from the people that cuddle the pets as they are coming out of anesthesia to the vets that perform surgeries four days a week. NAWS holds several fundraisers each year to keep them running, including Woofstock at Linden Square. Arnold also keeps busy soliciting grants and donations from a variety of sources.
The aim of the clinic is simple: to ensure that no family is limited in the care of their pet by their economic status. Qualifying households which meet an income threshold are offered greatly reduced rates on a variety of medical services including spay/neuter, microchipping, deworming, heartworm tests, vaccinations, and nail trimming. The clinic is not a full-service veterinary office, nor is it an animal shelter. Arnold has been careful to narrow the focus to serve the greatest good with their resources.
The clinic is also home to a pet food pantry for those that can't afford pet food, a pet boutique full of donated merchandise, and has a groomer on site as well. In the basement, dog obedience classes are available. And soon, there will be an outdoor 'catio' where owners can bring their cats to play and socialize.
Another of NAWS main initiatives is in addressing the free-roaming (feral) cat population. Arnold says that there are at least two free-roaming cats spayed or neutered each surgery day as part of the Trap Neuter Return program and has serviced more than 1000 cats to date.
Arnold and the staff at NAWS believe that animal companionship is for everyone, regardless of income.
"I've heard people say, 'well, they shouldn't have pets if they can't afford them,' but it's not always that simple. For older people living on a fixed income, sometimes their pets are the only other living things they see. Animals bring a joy that can't be measured in dollars. We just want to do our part to keep the homeless pet population in check," says Arnold.
To support NAWS, visit them at pcnaws.org.