The city of Waco is kicking off a new door-to-door outreach initiative to get more residents to comply with the new spay- neuter mandate that went into effect this year.

The SpayStreet program aims to boost public awareness about the city pet ordinance and the benefits of spaying, neutering and microchipping animals.

Volunteers for the effort also will share information on low-cost options for having the procedures completed.

The Waco Animal Shelter and the Humane Society of Central Texas have started training volunteers who will go into communities that have a high number of reported stray animals and reach out to residents in those areas.

One area of emphasis will be the 76708 ZIP code, which includes a densely populated section of North Waco near McLennan Community College and the Waco Police Department.

Up to this point, the five Waco Animal Control officers have done the outreach in addition to tending to strays in the community. But Assistant City Manager Wiley Stem III said having teams of volunteers educating residents will yield stronger results.

The city’s animal shelter budget includes $100,000 to fund the SpayStreet initiative. The volunteers may help pet owners schedule spay/neuter appointments, take pets to and from the surgeries for residents with limited transportation, or pass out vouchers to certain low-income residents that will cover spaying or neutering and microchipping services.

“We’re trying to partner the volunteers with animal control, so that it gives us more animal welfare resources in the field,” Stem said. “A group of well-trained and organized volunteers can have an impact on helping folks get their pets into compliance with this ordinance.”

As of Jan. 1, all pets are required to be spayed or neutered and microchipped, though exceptions apply for breeding or service animals.

City officials say the new ordinance will reduce the number of unwanted animals born each year and boost the likelihood that lost pets are reunited with their owners, which in turn will lower the intake and euthanization rates at the Waco Animal Shelter.

The Animal Birth Control Clinic and Crossroads Animal Clinic have signed on as partners to provide low-cost services for residents targeted by the SpayStreet efforts. Fuzzy Friends Animal Rescue also is providing volunteer support, Stem said.

Animal Birth Control Clinic has had an uptick in spay-neuter surgeries this year as a result of the ordinance and is on pace to perform more than 15,000 of the procedures by the end of the year, compared to 11,323 completed in 2013, Executive Director Carrie Kuehl said.

Kuehl said being able to address residents one-on-one at home will be more effective in reaching people who have not been responsive to mass-marketing approaches.

“We can get really intense in certain neighborhood pockets where we know that, for some reason or another, we haven’t been able to get their pets fixed,” Kuehl said. “I think that there are just some people who may not understand the huge benefits of spay-neuter that we haven’t been able to reach, or sometimes at the time we were doing some mass marketing, they didn’t have an animal at that time.”

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