hat would Bend look like without the work of Megan Gram and her team?
There would be a lot more strays on the street, for one.
After returning to Bend from Austin, Texas, Gram took the position of executive director at Bend Spay+Neuter Project, bringing a model focused on non-judgmental culture and care. That's the model Bend Spay+Neuter Project follows today, leading to nearly 50,000 surgeries and a community of care for both animals and their people.
Gram moved to Bend after completing her degree in recreation from Indiana University. She started working at Mt. Bachelor, but after a few years, she found herself wanting something more. She began volunteering with Bend Spay+Neuter Project because she's always loved animals. When a position opened up as the receptionist, she jumped at the chance, even despite the pay cut. Next, she became a manager, then joined the board.
Gram and her husband moved to Austin for a period of time after that, but she remained on the board. In Austin, Gram worked for an organization called EmanciPet, an organization with a non-judgmental culture, treating everyone the same and making no assumptions about pet owners—a culture she brought into her new role back in Bend.
"We're physically helping the animals, but we're also helping people be able to keep their animals," Gram says, "The organization I worked with in Austin really helped open my eyes to trying to help everyone and not be judgmental. Now, we do about 30 surgeries a day. And in some cases we do save lives which is really awesome. We saved a pitbull with a uterus infection the other day when no one else would do it because she was so sick."
"We have to make sure we keep the population low enough that there's home for every animals and that the Humane Society doesn't have to kill any animals for space—and they don't, which is huge for us. That partnership we have with them is so important for our community."
Not only did Gram bring that culture back from Austin, she also learned the power of partnerships between animal organizations. As the first "no-kill community," Austin has a 94 percent live release rate, which they did through partnerships with various agencies. This inspired Gram to create the Central Oregon Cat Alliance and the Central Oregon Animal Welfare Alliance.
"That's what we're doing now with the Humane Society," Gram says of the partnership, which today includes seven local groups. "We measure our success by their success. The lower their euthanasia rate, the more successful we feel. I started by asking the two shelters about what we have in common, and it was cats. So when we get kittens we spay and neuter them and send them to the shelter, with adults we spay and neuter them, vaccinate them and send them back out. This year, we've sent 100 kittens to the Humane Society."
For the past two years, members of the animal welfare alliance have been sitting down once a quarter to check in with each other. They're getting to the point of transferring animals from location to location, depending on need at any given shelter, Gram says.
In her position as executive director, Gram does more or less everything except actual surgeries. That includes marketing, networking, social media, press releases, events and fundraising.
"We have a really small staff so I wear a lot of hats. We have an office manager, a receptionist... I just got an assistant about six months ago, but I still do quite a bit of things at the clinic," Gram says. "Mostly anything you hear on our website or our Facebook page."
Gram's love of animals and their owners keeps her going.
"It's great to see how much people's animals mean to them," Gram says. "I do this because of the homeless person who met one of our doctors on the street by chance, and got her card and she told him that we'd spay or neuter his dog for free and he said, 'Really? I've been wanting to do it forever, but I didn't think I ever could.'"
Gram believes in the importance of spaying and neutering animals throughout our community, for good reason.
"What I ask people to do is think about what Bend would look like if we hadn't done those 50,000 surgeries," Gram says. "We would see strays on the street all the time, and we're really lucky because for the most part we don't. And that's due in part to our work. We have to make sure we keep the population low enough that there's home for every animals and that the Humane Society doesn't have to kill any animals for space—and they don't, which is huge for us. That partnership we have with them is so important for our community."
Looking to help Bend Spay and Neuter and animals throughout Central Oregon?
Join Gram and Bend Spay+Neuter Project at the Fur Ball Aug. 18.
Bend Spay+Neuter Project Presents Fur Ball 2017
Friday, Aug.18. 5:30-10pm.
Aspen Hall at Shevlin Park
18920 NW Shevlin Park Rd., Bend.
$75/individual, $400/table of six.