Judy Fandrei, having been a veterinarian technician for the last 10-plus years, started volunteering at the Kenai Animal Shelter a couple years ago because she wanted to do something with animals that didn't have a home.
It was at the shelter she saw a problem.
"I realized what a big, big problem we have with not enough homes for cats and dogs on the Peninsula," she said. "Just being there one day, I was amazed with how many animals came in."
She knew she needed to do something, but it didn't just happen overnight.
Her solution: the Peninsula Spay/Neuter Fund.
"I tried to come up with a program that would work for our community," she said. "I guess I was trying to develop something that might last and would be able to help people."
But first, she had to raise some money.
"Friends and family were very gracious and helped me get started and get a little bit of money in the bank," she said.
Fandrei decided the program would use a coupon system.
"I try to help people that can't afford to spay or neuter their pets, I meet them halfway," she said. "I'll pay up to 50 percent of the cost of the spay or neuter surgery. Fifty percent up to a set limit -- there's a set limit based on the different types of surgery required."
The program is funded by the community, Fandrei said.
"It's not money that's just falling from the sky and never-ending," she said. "I'm kind of like a funnel, I'm trying to help us who care about the homeless animals to help people who want to stop this insane population growth that we don't have the homes for."
For a canine spay, the cost could range from $80 to $250, depending on the size and age of the dog, Fandrei said.
"For a dog neuter or a cat spay, I'll do up to $75, and for a cat neuter up to $50," she said. "That's kind of about half of the average cost of those surgeries."
The coupon system allows pet owners to have the procedure done where they feel most comfortable, whether it be a veterinarian office or the animal shelters.
Brett Reid is the chief animal control officer at the Kenai Animal Shelter. He said that there is a big need for a program like this on the Peninsula.
"There are far too many dogs and cats born in the area, and a lot of people are reluctant to get them fixed," Reid said. "There are far too many litters produced than homes available for them."
Reid said in 2011, the Kenai Animal Shelter was able to adopt out 631 animals, but had to euthanize 730.
"In 2011, we had 1,673 animals coming in to the shelter," Reid said. "So numbers are up across the board. More and more people are voluntarily giving up their animals."
Reid attributed the increased numbers to Alaska's economy.
"I think it's a sign of the economic time, less people are looking for (animals)," he said. "Alaska's boom and bust economy trickles down to the pet population. Our numbers are up."
Fandrei's first contribution was used in February. Since then, she's helped with three dog spays, one dog neuter and two cat neuters, she said.
"And then I have outstanding people that have coupons," Fandrei said.
There are four coupons currently out in the community waiting to be used, she said. For pet owners who want to receive a coupon, they must first fill out an assistance request form.
"That way I know who you are, what your animal is," Fandrei said. "They fill it out and give it back to me and if I have funds I send them out a coupon."
People must be hearing her message. Fandrei said she has 12 request forms out at this time.
Soldotna Animal Control Officer Marianne Clark has been in the animal welfare field for about 38 years, and she too sees a need for Fandrei's fund.
"I cannot support it enough," Clark said. "To me, it's really, really important to get something going."
Clark said that those requesting assistance from Fandrei should consider helping out the fund when and if they can.
"I've told people, 'If you need help today with a program and it's available for you and you're able to utilize the resource, that's great. But tomorrow, if you have a few extra dollars in your pocket, donate, so the program can continue,'" Clark said. "So it's like paying back into what you received."
Fandrei said she will be selling handmade pottery and carvings at the Wednesday market this summer to help raise funds.
"I guess it's an education and awareness," she said. "As much as it is trying to provide financial support, it's to provide awareness that we have a problem."
Logan Tuttle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.