Tri-City Spay and Neuter Association celebrates 30 years of helping animals and peopleSEASIDE - It all started with a shed ... and a love of pets.

The Tri-City Spay and Neuter Association is celebrating its 30th anniversary. The nonprofit organization operates a thrift shop to raise money to help people spay and neuter their dogs and cats. The shop, originally located in a shed, now operates at 600 Broadway, overlooking the Necanicum River.

Wanda Hart, 88, is one of the organization's founders. There's a simple reason she's volunteered since 1978.

"I'm an idiot about dogs. If I didn't have a dog, I'd die," she said with a big grin. She got her current dog, a Lhasa Apso named Honeybear, from the Clatsop County Animal Shelter.

'A lot of dedication'Although Hart isn't as spry as she used to be, she still spends much of her time volunteering as the president of the board.

Wanda Hart, one of the founders of the Tri-City Spay and Neuter Association, does a little shopping of her own, Tuesday, picking out a sweatshirt.

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She's quick to acknowledge all of the volunteers that in the organization's 30-year history have worked to prevent unwanted cats and dogs.

In 1963, a group of citizens concerned about unwanted pets banded together to form the North Coast Animal Haven Association. Their goal was to build a place where unwanted and stray pets could find shelter and medical attention. To raise money, the group began a thrift shop in a shed that was located in what is now the Seaside Convention Center parking lot. By 1973, the group had attained nonprofit status and included all of Clatsop County, according to its secretary, Cheryle Barker.

The group raised enough money to build a small shelter on land donated by Gearhart in 1980. But there was no community support and the small shop couldn't make the $800 a month needed to take care of the animals. After only four months, the shelter closed.

"We just had to start from scratch, literally, because we had put all of our funds into that effort," Hart said. "It's taken a lot of people and a lot of dedication to recoup that."

The group changed it's name in 1986 to the Tri-City Spay and Neuter Association. It's focus was now to assist people in Gearhart, Cannon Beach, Seaside and all residents of School District 10 to spay and neuter their pets. Volunteers moved the shop to its present location on Broadway Drive. In 2001, the shop expanded to include additional space next door, doubling the display area and creating more fund-raising opportunities.

Barker estimates that in its 30 years the association has helped to spay and neuter several thousand cats and dogs.

Spay and neuter couponsThe association's main goal is to provide coupons to help people pay to spay or neuter their pets. All that is needed to obtain a coupon is proof of residency within Seaside, Gearhart, Cannon Beach or School District 10.

MORE INFO.Spay and Neutering facts

According to The Pet Savers Foundation:

• Each day, approximately 10,000 humans are born in the United States. About 70,000 puppies and kittens are born as well.

• A female cat can have her first litter at only five months old.

• An unspayed female cat, her non-neutered mate and all of their offspring can produce approximately 11,000 additional cats in just five years.

• An unspayed female dog, her non-neutered mate and their offspring can produce approximately 12,000 dogs in five years.

• For more information online: Human Society of the United States, (www.hsus.org). The Pet Savers Foundation, (www.spayusa.org).The coupons provide money off the cost of the surgical procedure that removes reproductive organs while the pet is under anesthesia. The pet owner agrees to pay any cost beyond the coupon. The coupons are good for $20 per male cat, $25 per female cat, $30 per male dog and $35 per female dog.

Pet owners take the coupon to participating veterinary offices. The veterinarian performs the surgery, fills out the coupon and sends it back to the association. Money is paid directly to the vet in the amount specified.

One of the main reasons people don't spay and neuter their pets is the cost, Barker said. Many don't realize how much it costs to raise and take care of a pet. And when pet owners are low-income families, pets often take a backseat.

"It's difficult to take care of pets," Barker said. "A lot of people get a pet without really thinking about how much it's going to cost. It can cost hundreds of dollars each year."

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Sharon Hermanson, of Hammond, looks for earrings at the shop Tuesday afternoon. Cheryle Barker, right, has been volunteering since her retirement, six years ago.

Dane Lawson, a veterinarian assistant at Remensnyder Pet Clinic in Seaside, said that the value of the association's coupons is immeasurable. He is also a volunteer at the Clatsop County Animal Shelter.

"Spay and neutering is so important because it helps control the population of strays and unwanted animals that are out there," he said. "We get a lot of animals dumped here at our clinic. We'll either take them to the shelter or try to adopt them out."

There are other important reasons to spay and neuter pets. When an animal is in heat, it can act very erratically. It may jump or dig under a fence, run through traffic and endanger both itself and drivers. Roaming pets will get into garbage and become exposed to more disease. Also, reproductive organs may develop cancer and create serious health problems, he said.

Philosophy of helpingOne of the association's goals is to be able to provide more money to lower the cost to spay and neuter.

"We'd like to be able to pay for so much more, but those amounts are the best we can do right now," Barker said. "And we'd eventually like to provide coupons for the whole county. But we just do what we can."

The coupon program is supported solely through the thrift shop and community donations. The small store is crammed with clothing, shoes, housewares, appliances, jewelry, toys, books and collectibles. It is run by about 12 volunteers who sort donations, make sure that they are in good condition and tag them. Clothing that is stained, ripped or has broken buttons and zippers is not accepted. All appliances are checked to make sure they work. Items are often rotated according to season and the inventory is always changing. Items that have been in the store for a while but are still sellable are given to Goodwill. All donations are dated, so volunteers can track which items are not selling.

To DonateDonations of clean, wearable clothing and other items in good condition are accepted from 1 to 4 p.m. every day except Sunday. Monetary donations may be made at the shop. All donations are tax deductible.

Winter store hours are 1 to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. 738-7040. "There are always people in need that can't afford to go into a regular shop," Hart said. "So we're meeting needs for people as well as their pets."

The association's treasurer, Thelma Felton, said the store makes about $4,000 a month. About $500 of that is used for the spay and neutering program. The rest is used for rent and donations to the Clatsop County Animal Shelter. The association also provides $10 certificates to local churches for people who need clothing.

Gayle Dahlberg volunteers at the thrift shop two days a week. The Elsie resident comes to Seaside often to visit her son and had often shopped at the store. Hart kept asking her to volunteer and now she's been doing it for six years.

"There's a real philosophy of helping here," she said. "I just keep doing it because of the good company and good cause."

Dahlberg loves to model items that she's purchased there. Her hot pink track pants "are every bit as good as what you'd find new." Most prices in the store range from 25 cents to $5.

"I can't even imagine going to buy something brand-new in a store now," she said with a grin. "The prices are amazing. We're providing a community service to people who can't afford to pay that much."

While most people bring in clean, usable items, she is constantly amazed at "how much garbage we get."

"If you wouldn't buy it, we wouldn't want it," she said. "If it's trash to you, it's definitely trash to us."

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