Responsible Ownership of Marfa Pets to dissolve by end of the month

MARFA –– Responsible Ownership of Marfa Pets, or ROMP, the town’s nonprofit organization that spays and neuters pets of low-income Big Bend residents, will shut down operations at the end of September after nearly 15 years in business. Over those years, ROMP partnered with veterinary clinics in the region and spayed or neutered just under 500 dogs and cats, according to Kathie Compton, ROMP’s founder and board director. 

According to Compton, there are several reasons why the nonprofit has decided to close down. 

“Part of a nonprofit is fundraising. It’s a very big deal. That’s what you do. We just got to the point where we didn’t have the time to do the adequate fundraising,” Compton said. “We got a grant last year that got us through the pandemic. We got a couple of grants last year. It’s not that we’re out of money. It just takes more money than we are willing to work for.”

ROMP Board President Minerva Lopez, who recently stepped down from the city’s tourism board, said, “We are retired and stepping aside to make way for others in our community to come in, hopefully with new ideas and a fresh focus on animal welfare issues in Marfa.”

“I think it was a great run. I really do. Part of it is just Minerva and I want to be free to do other things. There’s so much that could be done in Marfa. For instance, people who want to rescue animals or help the animal shelter,” Compton said. “Those are things that ROMP didn’t do that another organization could come in and do. And then maybe also do low-cost spay/neuter on the side.”

ROMP was formed in 2008 by a team of volunteers who wanted to start an organization that would raise funds to assist low-income residents in spaying and neutering their pets. And starting in 2011, ROMP expanded its mission by fixing cats in feral colonies around town, collectively spaying or neutering 200 feral cats over the years. 

Overall, Compton is proud of the work ROMP was able to accomplish over the years, saying “I think there’s less loose dogs running on the street as ROMP became more known and trusted, and then people were starting to take better care of their pet dogs. As far as the cats, I just don’t see much of a dent being made. I’m not counting them though.”

As ROMP is a 501c3 nonprofit, it must donate any remaining funds connected with the organization to another 501c3. ROMP’s board landed on Big Bend Pets, as the organization is “a good fit for Marfa’s immediate needs.”

Big Bend Pets, which is located in Alpine, offers a program known as “Trap, Neuter, Return” where feral cats are trapped, fixed and then released back into their colony. By doing so, Big Bend Pets helps manage the feral cat population in the region, reducing euthanisia and preserving already-limited shelter resources. “We are committed to implementing long-term, humane solutions to significantly reduce the population of unaltered, free-roaming and/or abandoned cats,” the company’s website reads. 

“In our rural communities, cats are important to deterring the rodent population. By doing so they also keep other unwanted predators, such as snakes who primarily feed on rodents, away from your front door. We need the ‘working whiskers’ back home doing their job,” said Patsy Culver, the organization’s founder and managing director.

“Trap, Neuter, Return works. We have seen the difference in the communities we serve. Thanks to the hard work and efforts of Big Bend Pets volunteers, the Alpine Animal Shelter reported a 38% decrease in the nuisance feral cats in 2020. We are on track to see an additional reduction in 2021,” Culver said. 

Thanks to the funding provided by ROMP, Big Bend Pets said it will soon be operating in Marfa. 

“With this help from ROMP, we are excited to have the opportunity to expand into Marfa,” Culver said. 

And Compton said she was happy to help. “They need somebody to come in, sweep up all these cats, get them fixed and put them back. And we just didn’t have the resources for that –– monetary-wise, volunteers or time,” she said. 

Right now, Big Bend Pets is actively seeking volunteers to train for the Trap, Neuter, Return program. “After completing training, they will work with colony caretakers in Marfa to trap their cats, transport them to the vets, and then return them back safely to their home colony,” ROMP said in its press release. 

If you are interested in getting involved, visit bigbendpets.org, call 575-489-5932 or email [email protected]


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