By Maggie Little
Paws for effect: Operation Spay Bay’s employees and volunteers are pitching in to make this community a better one for our furry friends. “We are a voice for the voiceless,” explains Cheryl Murphy, an Operation Spay Bay staff member. Until we learn to interpret all those woofs and meows, people like Cheryl are stepping in to advocate for animals across Bay County, but also as far afield as Fort Walton Beach, Louisiana, Montana, and beyond. Cheryl says, “If we see a need for an animal, no matter where it is, we move to help right away.”
This spirit of action and compassion for animals in need is what motivated Terry Cotter, now one of the directors on Operation Spay Bay’s board, to launch the organization in March of 2014. While working in the animal-protection field, Terry recognized that the overpopulation of dogs and cats was resulting in an uptick in homeless animals. This in turn was leading to an increase in the number sent to kill clinics. She knew something needed to be done right away, so she quickly put together a team. Enter Operation Spay Bay. Today, Operation Spay Bay exists to provide high-quality, loving, affordable care for cat and dog owners, as well as stray cats and dogs in the Panama City area and beyond.
To meet their mission, Operation Spay Bay offers a variety of programs, like Community Cats. Through Community Cats, every Monday and Tuesday locals can bring in stray cats for neutering and rabies vaccinations, as well as a left ear tip. The ear tip is a universal sign that a cat has been neutered and vaccinated. While one might be tempted to think this is harmful to the cat, it is not. The ear tip provides assurance that the cat has been cared for and reduces the number of stray cats in the area.
In addition to Community Cats, Operation Spay Bay also provides vaccinations at affordable costs in their clinic as well as mobile vaccination clinics in different locations one Saturday each month. Additionally, since March 2014, the clinic has performed over 60,000 spays and neuters for dogs and cats. On a given day, this averages to between 75-100 surgeries. As a result, a significant dent has been made in the number of animals placed in kill clinics. Yet there is still a need. Local shelters are full of cats and dogs who need homes. To meet this additional need, Operation Spay Bay actively cooperates with local shelters and animal rescue organizations working to reduce the number of animals who are needlessly killed. These services provide affordable and convenient options for those who could not afford to own a pet otherwise.
This same spirit of compassion that keeps Operation Spay Bay going locally also pushes them to move their resources to other areas wherever there is a need. “If we see a that a hurricane has damaged an area, for example, we are quick to rally together to offer help, donations, and services,” Cheryl explains. In the 2020 hurricane season, when hurricanes struck Louisiana, locals donated an abundance of items for animals affected by the storms. Operation Spay Bay personally delivered these items and provided assistance where needed. “We don’t just sit back and watch. We go out and help. We simply could not do it without our community,” Cheryl reflects. “I’ve lived other places, and I have never seen such love and support as I have witnessed in this community.”
Indeed, Operation Spay Bay is deeply grateful for their local community who rallied to help during their own time of need. Operation Spay Bay’s clinic was destroyed by Hurricane Michael, which ravaged the area in October of 2018, damaging and destroying nearly everything in its path. With the help of the local community, and in collaboration with Bricks R Us and Emerald Coast Landscaping, Operation Spay Bay was able to create a beautiful space in their new location at 3520 E. 15th Street in Panama City. Anyone can purchase a brick with their name or business on it to help support funding for the clinic.
In order to show appreciation for the local community, Operation Spay Bay is holding a Fun Day Festival Saturday, July 21, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Get in the spirit with nostalgic games such as pie and hot dog eating contests, a dunking booth, and a three-legged race, along with activities such as face painting and water slides. Hurricane preparedness education and a tour of the facility will also be provided.
Maybe you are the dog type and wholeheartedly agree a dog is a man’s best friend. Maybe you are the cat type and would not be ashamed to be called the crazy cat person. Maybe you are neither. Maybe you are both. One thing we all can agree on is that animals need to be cared for. Thankfully, organizations such as Operation Spay Bay are here with the assist. Join their community today! You can help by donating items of need, purchasing a brick, and raising awareness.
Please visit Operation Spay Bay’s website at www.spaybay.com and Facebook at page www.facebook.com/operationspaybay for updates and information.