Gerry Phipps’ non-profit organization, Be The Solution, Inc. (BTS), is “fixing” the pet overpopulation problem in Tallahassee.
Since 2009, the number of dogs and cats euthanized and housed at the local animal shelter has been cut in half, due in part to Phipps’ efforts.
BTS provides financial assistance to those who cannot afford the cost of a spay or neuter surgery and educates area residents about the benefits of having their pets altered. It gives out vouchers to pet owners for the surgery based on the owners’ ability to pay and the weight of the animal.
“A huge part of (BTS’) success is that it’s not completely free. Everybody chips in,” Phipps said. She explained that a surgery usually costing $300 to $400 is reduced to $50 or $70 with a voucher. Local vets donate their time to perform the surgery.
BTS had a record-breaking year in 2015 with 3,407 spay and neuter surgeries completed, and over 15,000 animals “fixed” since BTS started nine years ago.
Under 5,000 animals were brought into the shelter this year, down from over 10,000 in 2009. Less than 2,000 animals were euthanized this year, compared to nearly 6,000 in 2009.
Phipps said there is a direct correlation between the number of spay and neuters and the decline in intakes. Phipps said it is great that people want to rescue animals from shelters but it’s not until animals quit reproducing that real reductions can be made.
“Spaying and neutering solves generations of problems. It’s working,” she said, “and it’s an amazing feeling to see the numbers decline.”
“When I picture success, I see an empty (animal shelter) cage,” she continued.
It was full cages and a staggering number of strays in 2006 that pushed Phipps and her husband, Tim, into action.
She said she had “had it” with all the stray animals she kept running into.
“It was driving me insane,” she said. In frustration, she and Tim approached Lamar Advertising about putting up a billboard. “I told the advertising rep that people need to fix their animals. She told me ‘Well, you’ve got to be somebody. And then, you’ve got to give people a way to do it.’”
The Phipps went home, got with their attorney to set up the non-profit and approached their friends about serving on its board. “It was all very much a grassroots effort,” she said.
Today, BTS is supported by donations and a thrift store boutique at the corner of Apalachee Parkway and Capital Circle which sells donated, gently-used housewares, clothes, etc. Phipps said 100 percent of the money from the thrift goes to spaying and neutering.
“Our efforts are all about the future,” Phipps said, “and empty cages.”