PANAMA CITY — Cat carriers were stacked against almost every wall in the Operation Spay Bay clinic on Tuesday as staff worked to spay and neuter almost 90 cats.


"It’s pretty phenomenal," Brandi Winkleman with A HOPE said. "It takes a lot of time and effort."


A HOPE is a charity organization that helps provide low cost spay, neutering and vaccine services for community cats in the Santa Rosa County area. Grants from Florida Animal Friend and Sunday’s Child of Pensacola helped fund the spay and neutering services for all of the nearly 90 cats on Tuesday. Winkleman said that the cats were transported to Operation Spay Bay because there isn’t a closer clinic that can handle operating on high numbers of feral and community cats.


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"Operation Spay Bay is the closest clinic to us that actually takes community cats," Winkleman said. "Santa Rosa County was rated the third highest shelter kill rate in the state of Florida last year. We don’t have a local clinic that will take the amount of community cats that Operation Spay Bay will and work with us like they have."


A Hope for Santa Rosa County received a grant from Florida Animal Friends that will pay for 1,000 cats to be neutered and spayed this year. Operation Spay Bay has fixed nearly 800 of the cats covered by the grant this year.


"We’ve got two months left to get that last bit in there and we’re going to do it!" she said.


Operation Spay Bay Director Amy Wetzel was busy pitching in wherever help was needed in the busy clinic on Tuesday. She said that programs like A Hope for Santa Rosa County are important because they help control the population of community and feral cats.


"If you fix them, they’re not breeding. They’re not causing an overpopulation problem," she said. Cat overpopulation problems can include disease spread, aggressive behavior and roaming issues.


"We have an excellent team that knows exactly what they’re doing," Wetzel said. "You bring them in, you weigh them, you get their med bags ready and prep them for surgery. We have an amazing surgeon who is highly skilled and can do a cat spay in about two minutes. "


Cats are monitored closely as they recover and are sent home when ready. Volunteers release the cats after they are transported home.


Operation Spay Bay has neutered or spayed about 1,800 cats for A Hope for Santa Rosa County in about two years.