Critter Fixers-How it all began
Critter Fixers was founded by Chantele Gonzalez in August of 2018 because of a dog named Rocket. Rocket was a stray that spent weeks wandering her road in northern Robertson County. Chantele, an animal lover with 5 dogs of her own, set him up in an outside kennel, posted him on social media and reported her findings to animal control. After no owners came forward she began contacting rescues to place him. Fortunately, a rescue in Smith County, where she got one of her own dogs from, agreed to take him. Unfortunately, they were extremely short on volunteers to make clinic runs and he needed to be neutered before he could enter their program. Chantele, being no stranger to affordable spay & neuter clinics, contacted Sumner Spay Neuter Alliance for an appointment. They were booked out a few weeks and Chantele had a long awaited vacation coming up. She needed to get Rocket taken care of and off to the rescue before she left, so she began contacting local veterinarian offices. Neutering a male dog is generally cheaper than spaying a female, "it couldn't cost that much", she thought. Boy was she wrong! Because Rocket had no proof of vaccines, those were also required, as well as an initial visit. The surgery, initial visit and vaccines were going to cost almost $400! These same services would cost under $100 at an affordable clinic. She began to see why so many people turned a blind eye to animals in need. Who can afford to put out $400 for a stray? And so...Critter Fixers was born.
Our mission is to reduce the overpopulation of cats and dogs in shelters by providing Robertson County access to affordable spay and neuter services.
Once Rocket was taken care of, (he ended up staying a few weeks and going to an affordable clinic for surgery) and vacation was over with, Chantele reached out to Sumner Spay Neuter Alliance. She wanted to know how they got started, how should she begin her quest to bring affordable spay & neuter to Robertson County? Affordable spay and neuter is so desperately needed throughout our state, the folks at Sumner Spay Neuter Alliance were more than happy to share their knowledge. That's how our monthly transport came to be. Once a month we met at our county fairgrounds at 6am and loaded approximately 28 animals into a transport van and sent them off to Gallatin for surgery. We also reached out to affordable clinics located in Clarksville, Lebanon and Franklin, KY and set up a voucher system with them. We were now able to offer financial assistance to 4 clinics and transportation to 1! We also had a very busy, and successful, TNR (Trap Neuter Return) program for community cats. Things were happening, we were making progress in Robertson County. We were helping families obtain surgery for animals that couldn't have afforded it otherwise. We were making a difference. And then came Covid and 2020.
Unfortunately the Covid shutdown put a stop to our transports. Due to the overwhelming need for affordable spay and neuter in Sumner County, the clinic began to only serve Sumner County residents from spring of 2020 to summer of 2022. No longer being able to use that clinic put a huge dent in our monthly numbers. Losing the ability to use this clinic not only shut down our transport, but stopped our TNR program. That was a huge hit for Robertson County. 90% of the litters of kittens that overwhelm our animal controls in the spring come from stray cats. We still had our voucher program to the other 3 clinics, but the people who needed it the most didn't have reliable transportation or weren't able to miss work to make the long drive.
It was always apparent that Robertson County needed it's own high volume, low cost, spay & neuter clinic, but the problem was highlighted in 2020 through 2022. Critter Fixers initial plan was to have a transport, TNR program and voucher program for 5 years, and then begin working towards their goal of opening a clinic. Like the best of plans, it did not work out that way. We began fundraising for a clinic in April of 2021 and are still at it.
As of December of 2022, Sumner Spay Neuter Alliance provides Robertson County with 24 surgery appointments per month. It's not a transport, clients do have to drive back and forth to the clinic and this does pose an issue for many, but it is definitely better than nothing. However, it isn't enough to serve our ever growing population.
Critter Fixers intention from the very start has been to open a clinic. Covid just adjusted our timeline and increased the need. What many don't know is that the ASPCA provides a complete guide to opening and running a high volume, low cost spay & neuter clinic. This guide has been used to open clinics all over the United States and throughout Tennessee. It is virtually a step-by-step guide, almost a "spay and neuter clinic in a box". They provide layout plans, equipment grants, staffing descriptions, sample budgets and daily flow sheets. The one thing they don't provide is a location. Once we secure a location the rest is completely laid out for us. We began fundraising specifically for our future clinic in spring of 2021. For more information see our Future Clinic page.
How is Rocket doing today? He was adopted by a young family in Nashville shortly after being placed at the rescue. He loves to kayak and spend time with his new human sister.