Since September, the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society has been offering free spaying or neutering plus rabies vaccinations for dogs and cats in income-qualified families.

This program, called “The Big Fix,” has been made possible by a very generous supporter whose donation helps to pay the cost of these surgeries and vaccinations so that the Humane Society can provided the services free of charge.

Santa Barbara County has made such important progress in ending pet overpopulation because of successful spaying and neutering programs that prevent homeless puppies and kittens from being born. “The Big Fix” continues the effort to promote spaying and neutering by making those services available for pets in families who might not be able to afford a private practice veterinarian.

The Santa Maria Valley Humane Society is now expanding services to pets in income-qualified families by providing general medical care for sick or injured big dogs -- weighing 45 pounds and over -- through grant funds received from a private donor. “Chrissie’s Fund” pays for general medical care of large dogs when providing that medical care helps to keep a pet in a home. Animals in families without access to veterinary care are frequently relinquished to shelters when the family cannot afford an unexpected vet bill for a sick pet.

These pet retention programs, or “animal safety net programs,” are designed to help pet owners who deeply love and care for their pet but, due to unforeseen financial hardships, cannot afford needed veterinary care.

Just because a family cannot afford a vet bill does not mean that the family does not love their pets. Programs like “The Big Fix” and “Chrissie’s Fund” help financially challenged pet owners do the right thing by seeking and obtaining veterinary care while keeping beloved pets safe and in a home.

The “Big Fix” provides free spaying or neutering and rabies vaccinations to any dog or cat in a family receiving public assistance. “Chrissie’s Fund” provides free general veterinary care to large “bully breed” dogs when their family is income qualified.

Both programs are qualified by participation in one of the following needs-based public assistance programs; Medi-Cal/Medicaid, WIC (Women, Infants and Children), CalWORKs (TANF), BIA General Assistance, CalFresh (Food Stamps), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability (SSD), Section 8 Housing and Major VA Disability.

Appointments for free spay/neuter surgery through “The Big Fix” are required and can be made by calling 349-3435, ext. 2. Surgery is performed Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at the Gary & Lyn Hock Spay & Neuter Clinic, 1687 W. Stowell Road, Santa Maria. Free general medical care for big dogs through “Chrissie’s Fund” is provided during Wellness Clinic hours from 2 to 5 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday, without any appointment.

Sean Hawkins is the executive director for the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society. Email him at or call 713-269-3574.