The Cause: Animal Rights Proponent Sue Skaskiw

Sue Skaskiw and her cat Skinny Minny at her home in Bridgewater. Skaskiw founded Vermont Volunteer Services for Animals, which provides a myriad of animal services to the region, including animal rescue, low cost spaying and neutering, and aiding feral animals.
 (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

Sue Skaskiw and her cat Skinny Minny at her home in Bridgewater. Skaskiw founded Vermont Volunteer Services for Animals, which provides a myriad of animal services to the region, including animal rescue, low cost spaying and neutering, and aiding feral animals. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

The Woman: Sue Skaskiw, 58, of Bridgewater.

The Cause: Vermont Volunteer Services for Animals Humane Society (VVSA), which promotes animal welfare.

The Means: Offering spaying and neutering services for stray animals and, at a reduced price, for dogs and cats belonging to low-income individuals; finding new homes for pets and farm animals; working with state legislators to pass animal-welfare laws; working with local law enforcement officials on animal cruelty cases; and educating the public through the TV program For the Animals, found on the VVSA website, vvahs.org.

The Impetus: Skaskiw founded VVSA in 1986, after working with a local veterinarian to spay and neuter and care for cats that lived on a nearby property. The Vermont Spay and Neuter Incentive Program (VSNIP), originally begun by VVSA, is now a state program funded with money generated by dog licenses and administered by VVSA, under legislation adopted eight years ago. Since its founding, VVSA has grown to be a multi-service organization.

Dr. Lynn Mitchell was the first vet we worked with (to provide low-cost spay and neutering for pets), and from there, we added more and more vets in more areas. Between 33 and 35 vets all over the state agreed to reduce their rates for the people who would be screened through our program.

I’ve learned in the process (to help) people get better lives, not just do all of this work myself. They need to have a vested interest. They need to help us earn the money for this or that, and learn what it takes to care for these animals. It is a $25 co-pay to get an animal spayed and neutered through VSNIP, the state pays the rest, but sometimes there are people who can’t even afford that co-pay, so we say, well, what can you do to help us? And if they can help, they will. We just helped another family with 20 or so cats, where they couldn’t pay the co-pay.

The more like-minded people you meet, the more similar issues you’ll learn about and get involved about. It’s like a loaf of bread. First you care about spay and neuter, and then you hear about animal trapping. It depends on how many (things) you want to get involved in.

Truly, whatever we set our goals to, over time, we are able to achieve. Like a friend of mine said, “It’s one foot in front of the other and don’t stop, and you’ll get there.” That’s why we’ve had the good fortune to meet so many good legislators who get (animal rights issues) and they’re willing to work on it and represent it and make others get it. We’ve seen laws change, create the TV show, work on the spay and neuter program.

The biggest change I’ve seen through my work in the VVSA is that people have had the opportunity to come together from different places. Not everyone is interested in every issue. But it’s giving people an opportunity to know that they can effect change, to make something different. Reach out and see something happen.

Photograph and interview by Sarah Priestap

Published in print on November 11, 2012.

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