Ryan Newman Foundation kicks off Big Fix Rig in New Orleans; Ryan & Krissie Newman named spokespeople for National Spay/Neuter Response Team

NEW ORLEANS, LA (July 11, 2006) -  NASCAR Nextel Cup Series driver of the #12 Alltel Dodge, Ryan Newman, and his wife Krissie have been named spokespeople for the National Spay/Neuter Response Team (NSNRT).  Their first project for the initiative was welcoming the Big Fix Rig into New Orleans, Louisiana.

Krissie Newman traveled to New Orleans with Ryan Newman Foundation Executive Director Rosalie De Fini on July 11 to christen the Big Fix Rig, a new 53-foot mobile spay/neuter clinic capable of performing 120 cat sterilization surgeries per day as part of the effort to reduce pet overpopulation nationwide.  The mobile clinic was funded by grants from the PETCO Foundation and the Leonard X. Bosack & Bette M. Kruger Charitable Foundation. Welcoming the Big Fix Rig into Louisiana kicks off a major spay/neuter program in the Gulf Coast.

Leading animal welfare organizations—the ASPCA, PetSmart Charities, the Humane Society of the United States, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and United Animal Nations—have joined in an effort to fund $3.2 million in support of spay/neuter programs in the hurricane affected areas of Mississippi and Louisiana.  Last year’s Hurricane Katrina exposed the public to a growing pet overpopulation problem in the Gulf Coast, with nearly 80 percent of all pets in the region unaltered. Partnering with nonprofit organizations the Humane Alliance’s National Spay/Neuter Response Team, Spay Louisiana, Mississippi SPAN, and Humane Society of South Mississippi, the project will operate a spay/neuter voucher program, two permanent high-volume spay/neuter clinics and the Big Fix Rig to provide as many as 20,000 pet sterilization surgeries in the first year.

Ryan Newman explains, “Krissie and I are proud to have been asked to be the spokespeople for the National Spay/Neuter Response Team.  Across the nation, county animal shelters have to put dogs and cats to death because there aren’t enough homes for all of the puppies and kittens being born each year.  The only statistically proven way to stop the animal overpopulation epidemic is by spaying and neutering pets.  We have to prevent unwanted breeding to save lives.”

The National Spay/Neuter Response Team is an initiative of the Humane Alliance, which is a nonprofit public, low-cost spay/neuter clinic in Asheville, North Carolina.  Humane Alliance operates a high-volume spay/neuter clinic in Asheville that has sterilized 150,000 animals since its inception 12 years ago and reduced the euthanasia rate in their community by an astounding 82 percent. Through their NSNRT initiative, they have already helped groups across the country begin operations for 12 model clinics in just one year.

According to Quita Mazzina, director of Humane Alliance, “In this country we spend one billion dollars annually to pick up, house, and destroy homeless animals. If only five percent of that total were allocated to spay/neuter programs, we could open 250 public, low-cost spay/neuter clinics across the country and sterilize more than four million animals each year.  Instead of our county tax dollars being used to kill animals, we could be using those funds to prevent unwanted litters and therefore prevent the needless deaths of homeless animals.”

Working much like a NASCAR pit crew, the National Spay/Neuter Response team sends in groups of trained vets and techs around the country to help nonprofit organizations open spay/neuter clinics using the Humane Alliance model. The nonprofit organization first spends a week with their entire staff in Asheville at the Humane Alliance clinic, and then the Asheville staff comes back with them to their hometown for two weeks to help them open their clinic.

One clinic that is slated to open in 2007 is the Ryan Newman Foundation Spay/Neuter Clinic at the Humane Society of Catawba County’s multipurpose animal welfare facility that is being constructed this year.  The Ryan Newman Foundation pledged a donation of $400,000 to build the clinic, which will serve eight counties in the heart of NASCAR country in North Carolina. 

Krissie Newman says, “It was a very special opportunity for me to return to the New Orleans area to kick off this spay/neuter clinic and do something positive for the people who were hit so hard by Hurricane Katrina.  The Ryan Newman Foundation gave $19,000 in grants to animal rescue groups in Louisiana and Mississippi who were part of the Katrina rescue efforts.  We came down for a week last September with a truckload of pet and people supplies and another truckload of donated Purina pet food to distribute to families who stayed through Hurricane Katrina because they couldn’t take their pets to emergency shelters.  It was a humbling experience to drive through the devastated areas distributing supplies.  We also brought back a bus full of surrendered Katrina dogs that were adopted by families in the Charlotte area. 

“This trip not only gave us the opportunity to kick off this wonderful low-cost spay/neuter program, but it also allowed us to visit the Humane Society of South Mississippi where we camped and volunteered after Hurricane Katrina.  At the time, they were in the process of building an animal shelter and a spay/neuter clinic with help from the Humane Alliance’s National Spay/Neuter Response Team. It was great to tour the new facility now that it is finished, although they still need donations because a lot of the people who pledged money to their capital campaign prior to Katrina had to pull their pledges due to loss of their homes or jobs because of the hurricane.”

While in the Gulf Coast for the Big Fix Rig kick-off, Krissie Newman and Rosalie De Fini took time to visit the Humane Society of South Mississippi and St. Francis Animal Sanctuary.  Both organizations received a grant from the Ryan Newman Foundation for Hurricane Katrina Pet Rescue.