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Bay Area Veterinarian's Spay/Neuter Clinic Helps Thousands Of Shelter Animals

by Allen Martin and Jennifer Mistrot

BERKELEY (KPIX 5) -- Like most dogs, Venus doesn't really like being at the vet. But today's a big day for the seven year old pit bull. She's not fixed so Venus will be Dr. Crystal Heath's next patient at Berkeley Humane Society's Spay and Neuter clinic.

At the non-profit, Dr. Heath and her team take in animals like Venus from shelters and rescue groups all across the Bay, providing free vet care to those that need it most.

"I've always loved animals from a small child,' recalled Dr. Heath. "Animals were my first friends and I've felt a deep connection with them ever since I was a child."

Over the course of her "non-profit" career, Dr. Heath has spayed and neutered more than 20,000 animals. It's a process that has now become her passion.

"One unspayed animal can result in thousands of offspring," explained Dr. Heath. "Those offspring can often become homeless and stray and lead to problems on the streets."

The numbers are heartbreaking, as rescue groups, and animal welfare advocates across the United States report high numbers of stray animals being brought to shelters. In fact, the SPCA estimates that every year, 6.5 million animals enter shelters in the U.S. Of those shelter animals, 1.5 million will be euthanized every year. But Dr. Heath says the problem is fixable. The bad news, she says, it's also a global concern.

So recently she took what she calls a 'SPAYcation', traveling to Fiji to provide animals there with quality Vet care, including spay and neuter services.

In only a few weeks, Dr. Heath along with other volunteer vets from around the globe, spayed and neutered hundreds of dogs and cats.

Amanda Millar from the Fiji SPCA says volunteer Vets like Dr. Heath are crucial to the heath of the island's animal population and their owners. Fiji has around 20,000 dogs and only 800,000 human residents.

"It's a huge need," explained Millar. " Dr. Heath was amazing actually. She was a great personality amongst the team. She just instantly showed enormous compassion to the animals in our shelter."

Back at Berkeley Humane Dr. Heath is treating local dogs and cats, with vet care and plenty of pets. Coworkers like Berkeley Humane's executive Director Jeffrey Zerwekh are also grateful for all the love and care she brings to the humans she sees every day.

"We are so fortunate to have Dr. Heath and her team," said Zerwekh. "You can tell they do it with a lot of care and a lot of love for each animal."

As for Dr. Heath's travels, she says Fiji was a great experience but her heart is right here at home. But she says she will return to Fiji to help out again, and she wants others to know even if they cannot make the trip, the Fiji SPCA is always looking for donations.

"I will just continue to do what I am doing," said Dr. Heath. "Just learn more, help more animals ... relieve suffering and what more can you do then that?"

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