It’s been a good couple of months for the Science and Conservation Center, a Billings-based nonprofit that develops wildlife contraceptives.
The center produces porcine zona pellucida (PZP), which is the active ingredient in a contraceptive vaccine. In February, the Environmental Protection Agency approved the vaccine for use in wild horses, meaning there’s the possibility that demand for it will increase significantly.
With the demand for the only EPA-approved wild horse contraceptive vaccine comes the need to produce more, and on Monday, the center got additional good news on that front with the announcement of a $100,000 grant from The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) to help expand its Henry Bergh Training Annex, named after the ASPCA’s founder.
“We were very impressed that this very tiny staff could really change how we deal with wild horses in this country,” said Jacque Schultz, senior director of the ASPCA Equine Fund.
With the ASPCA grant money, the center, on the ZooMontana grounds, will more than double the size of its training facility to about 1,000 square feet. Dr. Jay F. Kirkpatrick said that once the expansion is done, staff at the center will be able to train as many as eight people during each session on how to handle and administer the vaccine, doubling the size of training classes.
The vaccine can be used on many other animals as well, and has been used on 85 species in zoos worldwide.
Kirkpatrick said he expects it to be completed this summer. The center is operated by Kirkpatrick, Robin Lyda and Kimberly Frank, who also conduct the intensive three-day training.
“Construction is under way and that’s about it right now,” Kirkpatrick said.
The center and the ASPCA have had an ongoing relationship for at least five years. Schultz said that last year, the ASPCA committed to providing $50,000 a year for three years to help fund the center.
Monday’s grant is separate from that original commitment. When a trio of evaluators came to the center to learn about PZP, they left impressed with the work, with the impact the vaccine can have and with the center’s financial management.
“They weren’t even asking us for money and we thought, ‘We want to do this for them, we want to make this happen,’” Schultz said.
“They’re good stewards of grant money and their accomplishments are impressive.”
The ASPCA Equine Fund provided $1.5 million last year to help at-risk horses, from small grants for equine rescues and sanctuaries to larger ones for groups such as the Science and Conservation Center.