Anyone who's lived very long in Union County has probably seen four-legged proof that the county needs a low-cost spay-and-neuter shelter.
If the county's growing population of feral and abandoned cats and dogs isn't enough evidence, consider these numbers provided by Lt. Michelle Starnes of the Union County Sheriff's Animal Services Department: From Jan. 1 to March 29, Animal Services took in 1,293 cats and dogs - and euthanized 922.
That's more than 14 cats and dogs brought in or caught every day - and more than 10 a day euthanized.
Thanks to the Humane Society of Union County, those numbers should start to decline.
The Society will open a low-cost spay-and-neuter shelter this summer at 4015 Waxhaw Highway in Monroe.
"The only way to have an impact on the animal population is to have affordable, accessible spaying and neutering," said Cindy Poppino, who serves on the Humane Society's board.
"There's been a great need for a long time for a low-cost spay-and-neuter clinic in Union County," said Patsy Ledford, another board member.
Ledford said the Humane Society has been working on the problem for several years, but a few things have helped push it forward.
"We had been bequeathed a condo in Myers Park, and had other bequeathments," she said. "One of our volunteers, who's also a real estate agent, found this house on N.C. 75. It's a perfect location, easily accessible to everybody in the county."
They were able to buy the ranch-style house, built in 1948, and remodel it as a clinic because of generous benefactors - including local contractors who donated time and materials.
"It's been a labor of love," Ledford said.
One of those contractors is Erik Ferguson of Custom Remodeling Specialists, who stopped by the clinic recently.
"We love Erik," Poppino said as his van arrived.
She explained that he worked for free to build a long handicap ramp to the front door, install an interior wall and perform other remodeling and carpentry services. (A complete list of contributing contractors can be found on the Humane Society's website, www.hs-uc.org.)
"We have been very, very, very fortunate that so many people stepped up and did stuff for free," Poppino said.
She said the clinic plans to charge $65-$85 to spay or neuter cats and dogs, with the final cost dependent on each animal's size, stage of development and gender. She estimated the same service at a veterinarian's office typically costs $200-$300.
Pet owners will be able to make an appointment, drop it off in the morning and pick it up in the afternoon, Poppino said. No animals will stay overnight.
The Humane Society of Union County had been providing a spay/neuter service by transporting pets in a special truck to low-cost clinics in neighboring counties. When the Union County clinic opens, the Humane Society will use its vehicle to pick up pets from prearranged sites to bring them to the clinic.
The Humane Society also hopes to use a large building behind the clinic to provide other services, such as: obedience classes; clinics for rabies vaccinations and micro-chipping; and pet-adoption events.
Ledford, Poppino and board member Marcie South emphasized that the clinic's operation will not reduce the Humane Society's need for donations.
"This is a huge step in faith because we just have to hope we get the funds to keep it going," Ledford said.
"There are a lot of people involved in this labor," she said. "It's been an incredible journey."