Like any other type of spay/neuter program, M*A*S*H is a model to use only once you determine that it ‘fits.’
M*A*S*H is ideal for remote, geographically isolated areas and generally is used to serve areas with high poverty rates. M*A*S*H is a great solution in the absence of, or before the opening of, other types of services.
M*A*S*H programs should be planned to have multiple clinics per year that are timed to be as effective as possible. One time ‘events’ may feel good, but they cannot change caregiving habits unless the program changes the status of animals in the community.
If you are starting a M*A*S*H program in an area where most animals roam loose and here there are, ‘community animals,’ your first clinic should be held as early in the spring as possible. Where female animals roam loose, every single spay before dogs go into estrus equals six surgeries that will not be needed just a few months later.
If you will provide only one clinic per year it needs to be in the spring and have the capacity to do all that can get there, whether their caregiver brings them or if they come on a transport. Animals that are turned away with no way to return for one full year are truly at a tragic loss.
Assessing for a M*A*S*H should take place before making plans and should include:
- Who will be your local partner? Are they able to secure a building and other resources such as housing for the team? If on Indian land, and not part of the tribe, do they have authority to run a program there?
- How many housing areas or communities are you serving?
- An estimate of the number of intact dogs and cats from each housing area or community done by a local public health office or a volunteer who knows the community. This can also be based on one to two dogs per home. The ratio of males to females may be less than one third female as many people are reluctant to keep female pets due to litters.
- For example, if on a reservation: if there are 30 homes in a housing area, figure 30 to 60 intact animals that could be sterilized from this housing area in the first clinic if people are likely to use the service (this depends on outreach, education, transportation, ordinances, etc.).
- If there are 5,000 households you would hope to provide 1,200 surgeries for the start-up year. This could be divided into three four-day clinics with two veterinarians per clinic for a total capacity of 400 surgeries per clinic. By spacing the clinics out to two to three months apart, the second clinic can be tweaked or the clinics can be located so they’re convenient to different areas. Multiply the number of surgeries per day times veterinarians performing surgeries, etc to come up with a round figure. With a high volume veterinarian, plan 180 to 200 per veterinarian in four days (45 to 50 per day).
- What is the farthest distance people will have to drive?
- Who will coordinate a transport program and locate local trucks, a stock trailer, etc.