The Early Years (1974-1996)
Help for Animals was formed in 1974 by its founder, the late Dorothy Cridlin, and a handful of volunteers in Cabell County, West Virginia. The organization was incorporated in 1977 as a non-profit corporation under laws of the State of West Virginia and received 501(C)(3) status from the Internal Revenue Service (see latest non-profit tax status letter from the IRS dated April 10, 1991 attached). Their goals, mission and objectives were:
- To promote animal welfare with special emphasis on spaying and neutering pets.
- To provide financial assistance to needy underprivileged pet owners so they can afford to spay/neuter their pets to stop the overpopulation problem in West Virginia.
- To provide education to the public to emphasize the pet overpopulation problem and to try to curb pet overpopulation in West Virginia.
From 1974 through 1996, Help for Animals was run by volunteers, raising funds through membership dues, donations, grants, and typical fundraiser events such as bake sales, garage sales, auctions, etc. Help for Animals was successful in the community for over twenty-years and had an good reputation in the community but we only were able to assist between three and six hundred animals each year, depending upon the funds we could raise. Our concern was to help minimize the number of cats and dogs who were becoming a statistic and being euthanized in our local shelter. In our early years, we discovered that many pet owners were not responsible and that led to the "throwaway pet" concept. Help for Animals continues to educate the public about the overpopulation problem but we identified the major problem in getting people to spay or neuter their pets in our area, was the cost of the surgery itself. Between 1974 and 1996, the HFA Spay/Neuter Assistance Program was supported by local Vets who charged their normal fees and HFA provided financial assistance to the pet owner for a portion of those fees, usually about $30. Even with that assistance, the cost of the surgery to the pet owner averaged $85 each, without any shots which cost another $35, to a total of about $120. That was too much for most people to afford. From 1974 through 1996, HFA assisted in excess of 6,000 pet owners in getting their animals spayed or neutered. At $85 per procedure, this cost pet owners about $510,000 and HFA contributed about $150,000 of that cost. During the 1990-1996, the average number of animals euthanized annually had risen to about 6,000 animals a year and the Board of Directors believed we needed to do much more to improve this situation.
Historically, over 60% of our financial aid goes to elderly pet owners who need and want lasting relationships with their pets, while the remaining 40% goes to indigent families with children who don't have the financial resources to pay for the total cost of their pets spays or neuters. According to the 1990 U. S. Census, twenty percent (20%) of the people who live within the city limits of Huntington, are 65 years of age or older. Approximately 80% of our clients never used any veterinarian's service. After the pet owner's animal receive a spay or neuter procedure, approximately 67% continue to use the services of a local veterinarian to keep their animal healthy.
The Birth of the Spay/Neuter Clinic in 1997
The birth of a spay/neuter clinic in our area was inspired by four members the Help for Animals Board after they attended a Spay USA clinic in Las Vegas on the need for clinics to do spay/neuter at low cost . Of these four original members who attended that Spay USA conference, there are still two involved in HFA, Vicki Blank and Donna Spencer. Both are on the Board and both served as President of our organization. After much research, financial planning and fund raising, Help for Animals planned the opening of the first high volume low cost spay/neuter clinic in West Virginia. The clinic stabilized our need for fund raising to some extent, but since the HFA Board is made up of concerned citizens who are not only pet lovers, but responsible pet owners and individuals who have a calling, they wanted to make sure everyone could afford our prices and so, we have had only one $2 increase to our price for spay or neutering in the ten years of our existence.
Help for Animals started a Kitten Adoption Program to attempt to place the unwanted kittens born to cats before they were spayed. We also perform a Spay/Neuter Assistance Program (SNAP) with financial assistance to needy owners.
And so, on February 25, 1997, "Spay Day USA", Help for Animals, Inc. opened the first high volume-low cost spay/neuter clinic in West Virginia and we believe, one of the first in the nation in a small metropolitan area (with a census population under 500,000 people).
The Fixed Clinic
In the early years of the spay/neuter clinic, we rented space of about 1,100 square feet in a remodeled building that was an Auther Treachers restaurant. When the owner of that building decided to tear the building down three years later, Help for Animals decided to invest in their own land and building to minimize our operational costs and secure our future in the area.
In 2000, the Board of Directors decided to purchase a piece of land near the Huntington Mall for immediate access to our community, just off I-64 and Route 60 at the east end of the Huntington area, in Barboursville, West Virginia to locate our new double wide trailer of 2,500 square feet. The unit was remodeled into a commercial spay/neuter clinic by volunteers and opened for operation in June 2000.
In 2007, help for Animals performed out 50,000th alternations on February 26, 2007, a day that is almost ten years from the date of our originally opening. And in June 2007, we have performed over 52,000 animals, bringing the total animals that HFA has altered, or help to spay or neuter to over 58,000 animals in our 33 year history.
In November 2014, Help for Animals hit another milestone. We performed our 125,000 spay/neuter. Since then, to date, the Clinic has performed a total of 160,000 plus spay and neuters to help curb the animal population in the area and surrounding counties.