TLC PetSnip is celebrating a huge milestone – its 100,000th spay/neuter surgery. The Lakeland-based nonprofit clinic has been working to provide affordable veterinary care and reduce pet overpopulation in Polk County since 2013.

“It feels unreal to be reaching our 10-year anniversary. I was here on Day One when we were begging for people to come in and walking the neighborhoods passing out fliers showing what we offer. So to be able to say we have successfully spayed/neutered over 100,000 cats and dogs is truly incredible,” Executive Director Emily Lorenzano said.

Lorenzano said opening its new surgical center accelerated the organization’s ability to reach this special milestone. 

In August of 2022, TLC PetSnip opened the Peyton Surgical Center next door to its original space at 1701 E. Gary Rd. With the new surgical center in operation, veterinarians are able to see over 300 patients for surgery and treat nearly 200 patients in the medical center each week, according to Lorenzano.

“The Peyton Surgical Center has opened our availability drastically. The new center has allowed us to increase our daily capacity from 40 patients per day to up to 100 patients per day, just because of the added square feet,” she said.  

“Prior to opening the surgical center, the general wait time for a 30- to 50-pound female dog was six to eight weeks.  Now, the average wait time is two weeks or less,” she added.

Lisa Gray, director of surgical operations, said about 70,000 of the 100,000 spay/neuter surgeries were performed in Lakeland. TLC PetSnip had expanded to two other clinics, however it left Ocala in 2021 and Seffner in 2022 to focus on Lakeland, where she said the need was greater.

Although many of the animals receiving spay/neuter services are pets brought in by their owners, the organization also treats a significant number feral community cats. 

The nonprofit offers a discounted surgery price of $30 for feral cats who are brought in using humane traps. It is part of a trap-neuter-vaccinate-return (TNVR) effort.

The fee increased slightly from $25 in March because the organization added the feline viral rhinitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia vaccine to its service.

“These cats all receive FVRCP and rabies vaccines, sterilization, pain injection and ear tip,” Lorenzano said. “The ear tip is a universal signal to identify feral and community cats that have been sterilized and vaccinated.”

The feral cats in traps can be dropped off Monday through Wednesday. TLC PetSnip offers traps for rent.  So far this year, the organization has sterilized 629 community cats; in 2022, its surgeons sterilized 2,034 community cats, according to Lorenzano.  

 “The mission of TLC PetSnip is to end euthanasia as population control through affordable sterilization services. Feral and community cat sterilization services are offered because of the need in the community.  Cats are euthanized at a much higher rate than dogs,” Lorenzano said. 

Lorenzano said cats can begin reproducing as early as four months of age and are able to produce two to three litters per year. An average litter is four to six kittens. She said that cats enter the shelter at a much higher rate because of the abundance of strays in the community. 

“The overpopulation (of cats) in Polk County is nowhere close to being resolved. We still have a very long way to go, but I feel there is so much hope with the collaboration of local rescues who believe in the mission as much as TLC PetSnip,” Lorenzano  said. 

According to the latest research from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, in 2021, 74 percent of cats and dogs that entered the Polk County Animal Shelter made it out alive. The other 26 percent were euthanized. Scott Wilder, a spokesperson for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, said in early 2022, the county animal shelter was euthanizing on average 159 cats a month. 

One of the issues TLC PetSnip founders Terry Sandlak and her late mother, LaVerne Peyton sought to address when they opened in August 2013 was the lack of affordable spay/neuter services, especially for large-breed dogs, Lorenzano explained. They thought having more affordable options would address the overpopulation issue.  

“It has definitely not been an easy journey. High-volume spay/neuter was not a common specialty 10 years ago and we had to fight to prove our place in this field,” Lorenzano said.

“We want to make sure for profit general practices know that we are not targeting their clients, but the clients who wouldn’t have gone to a veterinarian otherwise. We now have great relationships with local veterinarians who will refer financially restricted clients to us and know the patients will receive the same high-quality care. The community support we receive is overwhelming.”

TLC PetSnip also offers veterinary care to cats and dogs, with five surgeons on staff and two general practitioners, Lorenzano said. 

The spay/neuter services for dogs are priced by weight and range from $95 to $250. Spay/neuter services for female cats cost $75 and male cats cost $50. There are discounts for low-income clients, military and first responders. 

The non-profit has an Angel Fund, that is available to any animal needing additional medical care that their pet owner can’t afford. 

“We believe no animal should walk out of our door untreated due to financial restrictions of the client. We also take Care Credit and Scratch Pay. Our Angel Fund is subsidized by client and supporter donations,” Lorenzano explained.  

TLC PetSnip is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Its surgeons also offer other specialty surgeries including hernia repairs, eye enucleations, and amputations. The organization recently added dental care and X-rays to its list of services.

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Stephanie Claytor has been a broadcast and digital journalist in Lakeland since 2016, covering Polk County for Bay News 9 and currently free-lancing for LkldNow. She is an author of travel and children's books.

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