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Help for Animals, a low-cost spay and neuter clinic in Barboursville, sees about 150 clients every day and performs 11,000 to 12,000 surgeries each year.

HUNTINGTON - Local animal rescue and welfare groups are benefiting from a relatively new state law Bob Barker would be proud of.

The West Virginia Department of Agriculture has announced the 2019 grantees under the West Virginia Spay and Neuter Assistance Program. There were 71 applicants requesting more than $850,235 in grant funding.

Fifty-five projects will receive a total of $419,766 in state assistance this year, including three in Cabell County: Help for Animals, a low-cost spay and neuter clinic in Barboursville; Little Victories Rescue Group, a no-kill shelter in Ona; and Western West Virginia Animal Rescue Alliance, a collection of rescue groups that support the Huntington Cabell Wayne Animal Shelter.

"We saw an increase of roughly $50,000 in additional funds available to the program," said Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt. "With matching dollars, 49 counties will have access to $694,909 to help control local animal populations. Clearly, cities and counties see this as an issue that must be dealt with."

In 2017, House Bill 2552 added a fee to pet food registration in West Virginia to establish a funding stream for the Spay and Neuter Program. Money raised from the increased fees was designated to grants for spay/neuter assistance.

Eligible entities included county or municipal shelters, animal control agencies and nongovernmental, 501(c)(3) entities incorporated in West Virginia. This is the second year of a 10-year award cycle.

"We hear all the time from humane societies and municipalities they need help maintaining feral and domestic populations in West Virginia. With state assistance, these entities can tackle this problem without putting a huge stress on their limited budgets," said WVDA chief of staff Norman Bailey. "We are excited to see a lot of the matching contributions have come from private donations."

In 2018, 47 entities were awarded $367,680. With matching contributions, 8,953 spay/neuter procedures were performed under the West Virginia Spay and Neuter Assistance Program.

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