Pet Matters

I’m Jeanine Bishop, executive director of Alpine Humane Society and the head of the Far West Texas Rescue Coalition. I live in Fort Davis with seven rescue dogs. In this standing column, I’ll share helpful information about life with pets in the Big Bend Region.

You’ve heard about the pop-up clinics that Alpine Humane Society and the Far West Texas Rescue Coalition host, but you might wonder how these operate and why we host them.

Spaying or neutering a pet can be an expensive experience with a local vet. We appreciate our local vets very much and recognize that they have significant costs they have to cover: staff, facilities maintenance, utilities and more. We often assist pet owners with spaying, neutering and other veterinary care at their offices, and we value our good relationships with them. 

Traveling veterinarians have a different business model. We typically work with a team called Animal Balance. They work worldwide in places like the Galapagos Islands, Saipan, The Dominican Republic, Trinidad and more. We are lucky to have them recognize Texas’ overwhelming need for affordable spay/neuter services. They are able to travel here about every other month.

The Far West Texas Rescue Coalition is a collaboration of 13 rescue organizations and shelters from Marathon up to Fort Stockton, over to Van Horn, down to Presidio, across to Terlingua, and everything in between. We pop up clinics with Animal Balance in communities throughout the region in church halls, vacant stores, and even art studios. At these pop-up clinics, we can provide spay/neuter services, vaccines and microchips for up to just more than 200 pets in three days.

The current cost for surgeries and vaccines is $100, significantly less than the costs locally for this care. And no one is turned away for the inability to pay. Instead, the coalition raises funds to subsidize the costs for those pet owners who can not pay the total cost. 

Why do we do it? Because pets who are spayed (females) or neutered (males) are healthier. They avoid a variety of diseases and cancers. And we know that Texas has a huge problem with unwanted pets. Many, many shelters in Texas are considered high-kill, meaning that most pets entering those shelters are euthanized. It is heartbreaking for those in the rescue effort to know this. We develop foster homes and promote adoptions locally. For Alpine Humane Society and several other rescue organizations, we save lives by transporting pets to states that have legislation requiring pets to be spayed or neutered. Those states, including several in the Pacific Northwest, have a demand for adoptable pets because they do not have the shelter populations of unwanted pets like those we see in Texas. Far West Texas is just behind the Rio Grande Valley in terms of homeless and unwanted pets. Our coalition members work together to save our region’s pets through monthly transports by land or air.

Alpine Humane Society promotes spaying and neutering and works to overcome misinformation and resistance to those surgeries. There is no benefit to a female pet in having a litter. Some people don’t believe male pets should be neutered, and they adamantly refuse to have it done.

People also don’t realize that a female cat can become pregnant while still nursing a litter. And litter mates can begin breeding with each other as early as four months. These misconceptions help explain why there are so many unwanted kittens every year. Inbreeding in cats can result in crooked noses, misaligned jaws, abnormal eye set and asymmetry. Cancer is more common in younger cats.

Inbreeding in dogs can occur when a litter grows up together without spaying and neutering. Resulting damaged DNA makes health problems more likely. There is a strange phenomenon called “inbreeding depression.” Inbreeding can lead to aggression and increased anxiety. I have a Malinois who was a result of inbreeding, and oddly, she does not have a complete set of teeth. Often problems occur later in the dog’s life in the form of unexpected diseases and cancers.

Feral cat colonies experience some of the same problems without a program of TNVR (trap, neuter, vaccinate, return). Inbreeding in colonies results in rampant diseases, eye problems, and deformities. 

When pet owners come to our clinics or ask AHS for assistance for their cats and dogs at local veterinary offices, we don’t judge. We know pets should be spayed and neutered at a  young age, yet we see many mature pets who are five, six or more years old and have never seen a vet. We help get these pets the care they need. And we never question someone who cannot pay the full surgery cost. We are here to help. Generous donors support this cause and help us to help pet owners. Contact us for more information at 432-837-2532.