Karla Kamstra with furry friends at Pets Alive. Photo by James Kellar

Karla Kamstra with furry friends at Pets Alive. Photo by James Kellar


The numbers were grim. More than 110,000 homeless pets were being killed annually in Indiana, including some 75 percent of the animals brought to the City of Bloomington Animal Shelter.

“We thought there have to be more humane ways to control the animal population,” says Karla Kamstra. So she and fellow animal lover Katrina Sturgeon decided to focus on finding homes for more of the unwanted cats and dogs, even moving animals to other shelters where they were more likely to be adopted.

“But we realized that you can’t adopt away this problem,”Kamstra says. “The real question was how to stop the animals from getting to the shelters in the first place.”

The answer was Pets Alive, a spay/neuter clinic that opened in 2005 and celebrated its 10th anniversary — and its 100,000th surgery — this fall, preventing the birth of tens of thousands of unwanted kittens and puppies.

Today Pets Alive serves 24 counties within a 100-mile radius of Bloomington, offering spay/neuter surgeries (70 percent of the patients are cats), vaccines, microchipping, nail clipping, and other veterinary services.

“So many unwanted litters are born every day,” says Executive Director Melissa Kusturin, “and they are either dumped or taken to the shelter.”

Working with shelters and animal control departments, Pets Alive picks up animals in a special van that can transport as many as 60 cats and dogs and brings them to the clinic for surgery. They stay overnight and are returned, ready for adoption — but not for reproduction — the following day.The clinic also treats personal pets and feral cats that are caught in humane live traps.

The clinic in the Walnut Park shopping center operates with a staff of 14, including two full-time veterinarians and seven veterinary technicians.

Kamstra and Kusturin each have several dogs and a single cat. Kamstra, who has served on the Pets Alive board, calls her five dogs “foster failures.” She planned to give each one a temporary home, “but they never left the house.” While she is no longer on the board, leaving that to her husband, John, she is still active in the organization, working on fundraising, and she is still passionate about the cause. “Unless the community is offering high-quality spay/neuter services, you’re just part of the problem,” she says.

For more information about services and hours or to volunteer at Pets Alive, visit petsaliveindiana.org