December 8, 2021 151 PM
PRESIDIO COUNTY — The Big Bend Big Fix, a low-cost spay and neuter clinic sponsored by the Far West Texas Rescue Coalition, is returning to the region next weekend for Presidio County pet owners seeking veterinary care at reduced rates. Their services include spay and neuter surgeries, vaccines and microchips.
The program began in February and was an instant success. They started small, with a pop-up clinic out of the Marfa Animal Shelter, and expanded to programs in Marathon, Fort Davis and Fort Stockton, serving anywhere from 50 to 100 animals a day. “It was incredible to us,” said Jeanine Bishop, executive director of the Alpine Humane Society. “It saves [our shelters] a lot of money and it gets a lot of animals done.”
Bishop explained that there are many barriers to pet owners looking to spay or neuter their pets in the Big Bend. Vet care at traditional clinics can be expensive — local practitioners can charge anywhere from $130 to $350 for the procedure. Female dogs are priced on the more expensive end of the spectrum because spaying is a more invasive surgery. For lower-income residents in the Big Bend, these costs can be prohibitive. “We felt there was a need to go into markets where people don’t have a lot of money,” said Nina Dietzel, a Marfa-based artist and dog lover who has supported these clinics since their inception.
Those barriers can also be cultural. “It’s not a real common thing along the border for folks to spay and neuter their pets,” Bishop explained. “It’s been a big education and outreach project.”
For male animals, neutering can prevent behavioral issues like roaming and spraying household belongings. Spayed female animals tend to get fewer infections in their reproductive system. “There’s this mistaken belief that a female pet should have a litter before they’re spayed,” Bishop explained. “That’s just not true. Spaying and neutering is really important for all pets. There’s so many unwanted animals and so little shelter space, and we all try really hard to be no-kill.”
This time around, the Far West Texas Rescue Coalition is partnering with Animal Balance, an organization that got their start serving pets in the Galapagos Islands. According to their website, Animal Balance volunteers are “very used to working in remote settings with few resources, often in another culture.”
“I’ve done dog rescue since I first landed in the States,” Dietzel said. “In a small community like Marfa, I think a lot of people find something that they feel fits a need. I just kind of felt like personally I could foster and foster and foster, but the only thing that truly moves the needle out here in West Texas is to spay and neuter, to make those litters of puppies not even appear in the first place.”
The next Big Bend Big Fix will be held in Presidio on Saturday, December 11, and in Marfa on Sunday, December 12. The cost is $85 per cat or dog and includes a rabies vaccine. For an additional cost, microchips and vaccines against parvo and distemper are also available. The organization can offer limited financial assistance and transportation options to those who qualify. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (432) 837-2532.