Maddie Hankins ’20, Spays and Neuters Animals at the Blue Mountain Humane Society in Walla Walla, WA.

Man’s best friend. Cat nap. It’s raining cats and dogs. Puppy love. Pets and their actions are notorious- and humans universally love them. Humans have had pets for thousands of years. That’s a long time to be breeding, resulting in dog/cat overpopulation. Think about how many people you know that have adopted an animal from an animal shelter.

My name is Madeline Hankins and I am a senior Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Molecular Biology Major working for the Blue Mountain Humane Society in Walla Walla this year. Every one of my cats has been adopted from an animal shelter- I even adopted one from Blue Mountain Humane Society and brought it back to my home in Seattle. Shelters are still teeming with animals waiting to be adopted.

Pets are companions for adults and children. They provide stability and companionship during tumultuous periods of one’s life. This is especially important to those who most need comfort, loyalty, security, and overall emotional support. In this way it’s important to find a pet that matches your personal needs and personality; you want an animal you really click with.

Spay and neuter services help with both overpopulation and animal temperament. Spay and neuter procedures reduce overpopulation by not allowing animals to reproduce, and they affect an animal’s behavior. Neutered male dogs/cats and spayed female dogs/cats generally are calmer, better behaved, and are less likely to roam. Spaying and neutering also both have health benefits for animals. The humane society helps spay/neuter at a reduced cost, so all members of society have access to these services.

This is where I come in! We already have spay and neuter programs at the humane society, but large subgroups of our community don’t use the services. What barriers of entry or reservations do different communities within Walla Walla have? How can we support these members of the community to increase rates of spay and neuter? Do Walla Walla community members even know that these subsidized programs exist? I am working on identifying which subgroups these are and how we could market spay/neuter services differently to address the concerns of these groups.

In addition to spay and neuter services, I am interested in looking at other subsidized services that the humane society could offer. The main goal with any of these programs is that people actually want the services and use the services as a result. What’s the point in having a program if the community isn’t going to take advantage of it? It’s also important to consider the humane society’s resources- how do we best extend our services through the community without spreading ourselves too thin? I hope to find the answer to at least some of these questions during my time at the humane society, but until then I’ll keep searching.


Experiences like Maddies’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Mitzy Rodriguez

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