Pet groups come together to curtail stray overpopulation issue

MARFA — On Saturday, February 6, West Texas will look to “snip” its pet overpopulation problem in the bud with a “Big Bend Big Fix” spay/neuter event for West Texas residents.

Nina Dietzel, who is helping coordinate the Big Bend Big Fix event, said her hope is that doing an event like this will help the area get closer to alleviating pet overpopulation in West Texas.

Designed to be a COVID-safe event, participants will not be asked to leave their car. Rather, they can make an appointment and receive a time slot of when they can drop their pet off at the Marfa Animal Shelter on 1500 Golf Course Rd.

The service will then take between two to three hours, after which the owner will be called to pick up their pet. The cost will be $45 per cat or dog. Other services such as vaccines will also be offered.

Jordana Moerbe, a medical program director at American Pets Alive, said the idea to do a spay and neuter event in West Texas came after the executive director of American Pets Alive — a national outreach organization out of Austin — was visiting West Texas and realized it was in need of just such a service.

Moerbe, who routinely does spay neuter events, took it from there, coordinating with various factions in West Texas to set up the event.

“The goal with these things is to offer the spay/neuter service at an affordable price,” Moerbe said.

West Texas is new territory for American Pets Alive. The group is used to doing such events but not at the same distance or scale as the one in West Texas.

Terlingua resident Heather Horton Hall helps run Underground Dog, a rescue group in West Texas. She thinks a lack of accessible veterinarians in West Texas has led to people skipping on the chore of getting their pet spayed or neutered.

“It’s a long way to get to a vet out here, so we are trying to make it easier for people to do that with the event,” Hall said.

Of the 140-plus dogs that Hall helped in 2020, only two of them had been sterilized. She added that the amount of local strays is simply too much for area shelters to handle.

“The number of needy cats or dogs in the shelter far exceeds the number of adopters,” Hall said, “and that’s not even including any kind of standard for adopters.”

The event next month aims to spay and neuter at least 60 animals. If that can be done, Hall estimates it would prevent up to 400 animals from becoming new strays, since sterilization would prevent currently unfixed animals from further reproducing.

If a spay and neuter service is affordable and available in West Texas, Hall thinks people will take advantage of it. Doing so, she said, could lead to large decreases in pet overpopulation in West Texas.

To make an appointment for the Saturday, February 6 event, pet owners can call 432-837-2532.