Pet Matters: The Far West Texas Rescue Coalition

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.

I mentioned the Far West Texas Rescue Coalition in a past column and wanted to share more about this group of hardworking, compassionate animal rescue professionals. This collaborative effort brings together a dozen regional organizations and shelters:

Alpine Humane Society – Alpine 

Alpine Animal Shelter – Alpine 

Big Bend Pets – Alpine 

Cherished Pets Animal Rescue – Fort Stockton 

Grand Companions – Fort Davis  

Jethro Homeward Bound Pets – Fort Davis 

Lucky Two Times Animal Sanctuary & Advocacy Program – Fort Stockton 

Marathon Animal Shelter – Marathon 

Marfa Animal Shelter – Marfa 

Pecos Animal Shelter – Pecos 

Presidio Animal Shelter – Presidio 

The Underground Dog – Terlingua 

TransPecos Dusty Paws – Reeves County 

Together, these partners work in a vast geographic region to rescue pets and promote them for adoption or for transport to other states with more demand for and fewer available adoptable pets. The coalition also sponsors monthly pop-up clinics called The Big Bend Big Fix to spay, neuter, and vaccinate cats and dogs.

The member organizations each work to raise funds for their own operations in their communities: veterinary services for pets in their care, food, supplies and transport costs. As a group, the coalition works to raise funds to subsidize clinic costs for pet owners throughout the region who are unable to pay for clinic services. Other significant costs for these clinics include accommodations and meals for the visiting vet team and volunteers, supplies to operate the clinics, and advertising and travel expenses. 

Recently, a fundraiser provided enough money to purchase equipment to sterilize surgical instruments on-site during the pop-up clinics. The next purchase the group will jointly fundraise for is a large cargo van to carry all of the crates, tables and clinic supplies. The coalition will also share this van to transport pets from the coalition communities to Central Texas, El Paso and other locations for expanded adoption opportunities.

In this region with a small donor pool, it is a delicate balance for the coalition to raise funds without negatively impacting the fundraising of the individual member groups in their own communities. Alpine Humane Society is the largest nonprofit organization in the coalition and serves as the fiscal sponsor for the greater collaborative effort, providing tax receipts to allow donors to take advantage of tax deductions for their support. Some groups in the coalition are not 501(c)3 nonprofits and they cannot offer those receipts. AHS can serve as a pass-through agent for donations to those individual members of the coalition or to the coalition as a whole.

Each pop-up clinic the coalition hosts provides services to 150 to 200 pets and feral cats. With 10 clinics hosted in the past two years, about 1,800 cats and dogs have been spayed, neutered and vaccinated. Unfortunately, the economy has caused these services, like many other goods and services, to become more expensive. When we started the clinics in February of 2021, the cost per pet was $45. It soon jumped to $60, then $75. In 2022, the cost increased to $100 and is now $150 as we move into 2023. 

We have found that most pet owners can afford $75 to $100. No one is ever turned away from the clinics for inability to pay. That means that coalition member organizations are called upon to make up the deficit in paying for pet care and clinic operational expenses. Businesses and individual donors in the communities where clinics have been held have assisted dramatically with their financial support. However, the problem of pet overpopulation and the number of unaltered pets remains large in our region. We know that we are making inroads into these numbers with the clinics, but we are not yet ahead of the problem.

We will host clinics every month in 2023. The coalition will host services in Pecos from December 3 through 5, Presidio in January, Alpine in February, Terlingua in March, Fort Stockton in April, and Marfa in May. The funding needed for each clinic is about $5,000. Businesses or individuals who wish to become clinic sponsors can contact Alpine Humane Society at [email protected] or 432-837-2532.

We believe that within two years we will see evidence of a meaningful positive impact in the reduction of unwanted litters of puppies and kittens throughout the region as a result of pop-up clinics if the coalition can continue to obtain donations and grants.