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Saturday, March 02, 2024

UF first lady Chris Machen is working like a dog to save healthy animals from euthanasia in Gainesville.

Tonight, Machen is hosting an event at the President's Mansion to thank donors who have given $150 or more to No More Homeless Pets, a local organization working to stop euthanization of healthy animals.

Machen became a board member of the year-old organization about six months ago.

Machen's interest in helping local animals was put into action about a year and a half ago when she helped to start the St. Francis House Pet Care Clinic, which offers free veterinary care to homeless and low-income people.

The No More Homeless Pets organization is trying to build a facility that would control the over population of dogs and cats by providing a high quality, high volume, low cost spay and neuter center for Alachua and surrounding counties. The goal for the facility is to service about 6,000 animals annually. Donations will fund the daily operations.

"The only way to stop it is to have less litters. It's a pretty easy concept," Machen said.

Last year, philanthropist Gladys Cofrin gave the group a $250,000 donation, which the Alachua County Commission then matched, Machen said.

With donations from Cofrin and the city, the organization has enough money to build the facility but still needs more to purchase equipment and hire employees, said Julie Levy, organization president and UF College of Veterinary Medicine professor.

The group will soon operate temporarily out of a donated semi trailer equipped to spay and neuter up to 120 cats and small dogs per day, Levy said.

The trailer, called the Big Fix Rig, was originally used in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to help control the stray animal population. Humane Alliance, a North Carolina spay and neuter clinic, donated the rig to No More Homeless Pets because of the organization's favorable reputation, Levy said.

Some of the money donated by those attending tonight's function will go toward the $12,000 cost to bring the rig to Gainesville and adjust it to service big dogs as well.

In 2008, of the 7,598 animals brought to Alachua County Animal Services, 3,011 were euthanized, said director David Flagler.

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However, compared to other counties, Gainesville has a relatively low euthanization rate because of the efforts of organizations like No More Homeless Pets, Flagler said.

"I really count myself blessed in this community because this is a place that people really do care," he said.

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