The Pet Pioneer

Since Spay Neuter Charlotte opened in its original NoDa location in 2011, the organization has performed more than 45,000 surgeries. Charlotte native Cary Bernstein was the brains—and big heart—behind the creation of the nonprofit, which now has three Charlotte locations. When she served on the board for the Humane Society of Charlotte, Bernstein was alarmed by Charlotte’s high animal euthanasia rate. Today, Spay Neuter estimates it has prevented more than 810,000 unwanted litters of cats and dogs. We caught up with the busy founder and executive director to talk animals and innovation.


What inspired you to open Spay Neuter Charlotte?

Charlotte was euthanizing an extraordinary number of animals every year—homeless, healthy animals. And I knew from my experience at the Humane Society that there were other communities across this country that had stopped doing that. I was just passionate about the fact that this was a solvable problem and that we in Charlotte, given all the incredibly innovative partnerships and initiatives, should be one of those communities.


What does a typical workday look like for you?

Basically 90 percent of my job is troubleshooting, thinking about the future, and managing people. I look at my folks that are here working with me as my biggest assets and I have unbelievably great people. I want them all to thrive here and feel great about the work that they do.


What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

I really am fortunate because I do work every day that I have tremendous passion for. I believe in what we do and I work with people that I respect. It’s not common that you get to be in a place in your life where you have all of those things. And I’m so grateful for that opportunity.


Did you ever dream you’d be doing something that makes such an impact?

No. I think if someone had told me 10 years ago that I would be doing this, I would have said, “What? Spay Neuter? What?” But it’s interesting how the world works. I think all of my previous experience put me in a position to do this and be successful at it. Even when we opened five years ago, here on North Davidson Street, I thought I’d have a spay neuter clinic. I didn’t imagine that within a five-year period we’d have three, and that we’d be moving into another much larger facility and doing all of this.


What’s your vision for the future of Spay Neuter Charlotte?

Our vision is to continue to provide services that the community needs. We know we haven’t finished the job—although I will tell you that when we opened in 2011, the euthanasia rate in the community was somewhere in the 13,000 range and now that number is down to 7,000. While we won’t take full credit for that decrease, because there have been a lot of other good things happening in the community, we know that providing 46,000 fixes over a five-year period has definitely had an impact. So, we want to continue to do that and we want to expand our services where wellness is concerned so we can help more people.