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To reduce the population of homeless kittens born each year, the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society will provide free spaying or neutering for up to 100 cats on Sunday.

The program, titled "Beat the Heat," is a collaboration between the Humane Society and the Pomona-based Western University College of Veterinary Medicine. Four veterinary surgeons will be on hand to neuter or spay any cat in Santa Barbara County with an appointment.

The daylong event will be held at the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society, located at 687 W. Stowell Road. 

For the 2016-17 fiscal year, there were 2,622 homeless cats in Santa Barbara County.

Sean Hawkins, executive director of the Humane Society, said controlling cat overpopulation is particularly challenging.

“Cats breed year-round,” he said. “When a cat has a litter of kittens, they typically have between seven and 12. Just doing basic math — two breeding cats, with all of their offspring, will generate 420,000 kittens in six years. So spaying and neutering is an important and easy way to prevent homeless kittens.”

On Sunday, cats will be admitted at 7:30 a.m. and go home between 4 and 6 p.m.

Dr. Zarah Hedge, a professor of veterinary medicine at Western University, will join the Humane Society’s three veterinarians. Ten veterinary students will join her to assist by monitoring anesthesia and helping to recover patients.

“The goal is to do 100 spay, neuters — so it’ll be a pretty big event,” Hedges said.

Hedges said neuters — meaning castration or the removal of a cat's testicles — can often be done in under one minute, while spays — which involve the surgical removal of the uterus and ovaries from the abdomen — generally take around 5 minutes.

“We get pretty fast because we do it every day,” she said.

Hawkins said involving veterinary students was an important part of promoting the Humane Society’s mission.

“We want to show careers in animal welfare and shelters to young generations; we want to get them involved.”

“I firmly believe that we — the Humane Society — can’t solve dog and cat overpopulation on our own,” Hawkins said. “It takes the everyone working together — vet school, private vets and the community to get to where we can address this. That’s why partnerships with institutions like the vet school are so important.”

Beat the Heat, a project of the Responsible Pet Owners Alliance, is funded in part by Santa Barbara County Animal Services, which provided a $5,000 grant to cover some of the hard costs of surgeries, like drugs, scalpels, sutures and other supplies. The cost of materials for a single spay can run up to $60 per surgery, Hawkins said. The veterinarians and students are donating their time for the event.

Owned cats and community cats are welcome to participate. Owned cats must arrive in a secured, enclosed pet carrier. Community cats must arrive in a standard cat trap.

To make an appointment for a spay or neuter, call the Humane Society at 805-349-3435.

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Razi Syed covers Santa Maria City Government for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.  Follow him on Twitter @razisyed

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