On Saturday, Aug. 16, CTFK (Churches Together for the Kids Ministries) hosted its annual Back2School Bash in downtown Wagener to ready area students for the upcoming school year.


It was a beautiful day. Friends and families gathered to catch up with their neighbors and have some lunch, while children of all ages lined up for free school supplies, haircuts and health screenings.


FOTAS was on-site to provide information about its Fix-a-Pet Program, which provides low or no-cost spay/neuter surgeries for pets in the Wagener area.


“I bet we saw 600 people,” says Carol Miller, one of the FOTAS Fix-a-Pet coordinators. “We ran out of stickers, coloring sheets and animal cards after lunch. We handed out all of our Fix-a-Pet fliers and spoke to lots of people who were interested in taking advantage of the program.”


“It was a huge success,” she continues. “20 people scheduled spay/neuter surgeries for last Tuesday. We have had so many calls, we are already scheduling the next pick-up date.”


Wagener is a town that has preserved a strong sense of community and tradition. It has not fallen prey to the nondescript modernity of chain stores and fast food restaurants. In so many ways, Wagener is a picture of Americana, representing the small-town values upon which this country is built.


Yet over time, Wagener has become a hotspot in the County for problematic overpopulation of dogs and cats, resulting in a disproportionately high number of homeless animals euthanized in the County Shelter every year.


Over the past three years, FOTAS has worked closely with Mayor Miller’s office to address this issue by providing low or no-cost spay/neuter surgeries for pets in the Wagener area.


Once or twice a month, depending on the number of people who have signed up at the Mayor’s office, FOTAS volunteers arrange the pick up, transportation and return of the animals to and from the SPCA’s spay/neuter clinic, and FOTAS pays the costs of the surgery.


“We know how hard it is for families and working folks to find the time and resources to spay or neuter their pets,” says Colleen Timmerman, another FOTAS Fix-a-Pet coordinator, “so we try to make it as financially and logistically painless as possible.”


The hard work is paying off. In 2013, FOTAS paid for 379 spay/neuter surgeries, the majority of which came from the Wagener area. This year should be even better as the FOTAS Fix-a-Pet Program (which also supplements the County Voucher Program for all County residents) gains traction in the community.


Every spay/neuter surgery does make a difference.


According to theoretical breeding statistics, that is, the number of kittens or puppies an un-spayed female and her offspring are capable of producing over a 7 year period, one un-spayed female cat and one un-neutered male cat can produce 420,000 kittens in 7 years. For dogs, one un-spayed female and one un-neutered male can produce 67,000 puppies over the same period.


While it’s true these numbers are theoretical and assume maximum health and reproduction capabilities and longevity, they are nevertheless mind-blowing. The population of unfixed animals in the County is the reason for the shockingly high number of homeless animals (4800 last year, down from 6500 in the past) consigned to the County shelter each year and the correspondingly high euthanasia rates.


Pope Paul II once said, “A community needs a soul if it is to become a true home for human beings,” and that it is the people of the community that give it that soul.


Wagener is a community with soul. As evidenced by the Back2School Bash, it is a place that cares deeply for its people and its children. The increasing success rate of the FOTAS Fix-a-Pet Program demonstrates Wagener is a place that cares deeply for its animals as well.


FOTAS volunteers work with the Aiken County Animal Shelter, 333 Wire Road. For more information, email info@fotasaiken.org or visit www.fotasaiken.org.