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The Second Chance Animal Shelter has received the largest grant in their history. The total amount came to $101,820 spread over two years in grants of $50,910 each year.

The shelter’s executive director, Sheryl Blancato, said the grant from PetSmart Charities will underwrite a 24-month effort to reduce the homeless pet population in Spencer, East Brookfield, North Brookfield and Charlton, Mass.

PetSmart Charities, based in Phoenix, was established in 1994 as an independent nonprofit organization that creates and supports programs that save the lives of homeless pets and raises awareness of animal welfare issues. It has awarded more than $134 million in grants and programs.

“None of the grant money can be used for the sheltered animals,” Mrs. Blancato said. “Basically, it’s for us to help out the residents in the four towns.”

She said Second Chance got the grant because of its ongoing initiative to provide spay and neuter services for animals owned by residents in Worcester County towns.

The shelter has been providing low-cost spay/neuter services since 2004 and has fixed about 2,200 pets per year, according to Mrs. Blancato. She said that with the recent opening of its wellness center on North Main Street in North Brookfield, and with the $101,820 in grant funds, the shelter plans to do about 8,000 surgeries in the coming year.

“This is a one-time thing for these four towns,” Mrs. Blancato said. “Our plan is after we take care of the problem in these four towns, we’re going to target other towns. We picked these four towns because these are the towns with the highest number animals being surrendered into our shelter, especially kittens.”

Spencer Animal Control Officer Carol A. Gaucher, who has been dealing with animal control in town for 20 years, said the grant will help tremendously.

“We’ve been trying to keep the cat population under control here, but we have certain people who don’t listen.” Gaucher said the money awarded Second Chance will enable her to really attack the problem.

Feral cats, she said, also pose health problems when they come in contact with home-owned cats because they can easily spread disease.

“Our hope is that we’ll be able to spay or neuter every animal in those four towns and start to create a circle of no more homeless pets,” Blancato said.

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