This article was published on Petco’s “Foundation Tails” webpage. (Summer, 2010)
Lynn Chiche, Founder of SpayMart
Sometimes sticking to your dreams no matter what is not the key to success. However, your dreams can provide a base from which reality springs. No one knows this better than Lynn Chiche and Pam Casey of SpayMart. 5 years ago they were 85% of the way and 7 years invested into achieving their dream of building Louisiana’s first high volume spay/neuter clinic in New Orleans. Unfortunately Hurricane Katrina destroyed the facility in 2005. In assessing the changed landscape, Lynn and Pam realized that, while a focus on spay/neuter was still critical and a worthwhile dream, the vision needed to expand. There was a new need to more directly help the existing animals affected by the devastation.
The organization participated heavily in water rescue, and ultimately transported over 300 felines to its sanctuary in Mississippi. Mrs. Chiche received the Civic Award from the Alliance for Good Government of August 14, 2006 for her heroic water rescue efforts of New Orleans animals stranded in flooded homes following hurricane Katrina. She and her husband, Dr. Gerard Chiche, now reside at the 27 acre and 17,000 s.f. sanctuary in Mississippi where 278 cats currently reside as well. These feline residents have been rescued from cruelty investigations, from the homes of hoarders and from the horror of Hurricane Katrina. Lynn knows the names of all of the animals. She knows their stories, their health, their likes and dislikes. You can see them, well fed and lounging happily in any of the multiple rooms set aside for them. These cats do not really know that they are not in a forever home. They are fed, provided with water, clean linens, beds and couches to lounge on. With a tiny staff of 4, and a full time vet tech, as well as a dedicated team of volunteers, they endeavor to provide for the needs of a tremendously large number of cats. The greatest amenity these cats are lacking is the one on one companionship of a forever human. Lynn Chiche notes, “When I turn the lights out at night, I promise them their family is just waiting and I’m determined to find it.” And we, at the PETCO Foundation, believe that she will.
In the past five years the SpayMart vision has expanded to embrace the following additional programs:
- Adoption Program: Provides housing and adoption services for over 300 cats annually. Prior to adoption, all animals are sterilized, vaccinated, and microchipped. SpayMart partners with local Petco and Petsmart stores to secure homes.
- Community Kitten Foster Program: Vetting services, including spay/neuter and adoption assistance as incentive for the public to foster homeless, unwanted kittens. The Foster Program and the Adoption Program average 200 homes annually.
- Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Assistance Program: Operates out of local veterinarian offices. Sterilizes approximately 2500 animals annually. Neuters 1500-2000 ferals during SpayMarts “Neuter Scooter” campaign commemorating National Feral Cat Day held each October.
- SpayMart Help Line: A resource for the public, dealing with animal welfare, education and services.
When asked if there were any memorable cats that have crossed through their doors, Lynn immediately notes that there were so many stories, happy and sad. One story was profiled in their recent newsletter about a deaf rescue named Snow. As with most white cats, Snow is completely deaf. The street was the only home she’d ever known, but a loyal caretaker never let her go hungry. When the caretaker suddenly passed away, Snow’s situation deteriorated. A lesion on her ear grew worse daily, and her hunger pains deepened. Having nowhere else to go, however, she stayed faithfully in her yard. A neighbor watched her grow weaker daily, and in desperation, took her to the vet, where cancer was diagnosed. Unwilling to assume Snow’s medical expenses, she was brought back to her yard to die. Obviously, this was not the destiny intended for Snow. Someone finally called Spaymart, and Snow got the vital operation necessary to save her life thanks to the Felicity Charity Fund (a medical fund set aside specifically for cases like this one). The vet skillfully removed her ear and she has made a total recovery. Snow now has a forever home as an office cat. She loves helping out on the computer, but insists on daily belly rubs and head butts.
While rescue and adoption and animal welfare are worthy visions and have slipped easily into the dreams of Lynn Chiche and Pam Casey, they do ultimately want to see all the cats in their care adopted into loving homes and be able to refocus their energies back on the dream of creating the SpayMart spay and neuter clinic, a realistic solution for reducing new litters being introduced into the Louisianna feline overpopulation. You can read more about the SpayMart dream on their website.
When asked what she wants people who are reading this to know, Lynn was clear that people should follow their dreams no matter how daunting they may seem. “A budget of $220.000 annually is necessary to operate the Spaymart sanctuary. This figure is quite challenging for a grass-roots organization, but with major fundraising and tight operations, all is possible. Our dream would be to encourage others to embrace similar programs that will ultimately enrich the lives of animals the world over. We would like to set an example of passion and dedication to abandoned animals overcoming all obstacles.”