September 27, 2023 822 PM
TRI-COUNTY — Donations to the Alpine Humane Society (AHS), which help keep the animal-welfare nonprofit afloat, have recently declined by about 50% since this time last year, resulting in cuts to payroll, downsizing of office space and the elimination of critical low-cost spay and neuter clinics.
The mobile clinics, coined the Big Bend Big Fix program, started in 2020 and served around 2,000 animals throughout the region before shuttering due to lack of funds in May, according to Jeanine Bishop, executive director of AHS.
Now, in the absence of an affordable, convenient option for spaying and neutering pets, Bishop said the area is once again experiencing swells in animal populations resulting from puppy and kitten season this past spring.
“Just the explosion in the animal population, it’s heartbreaking because we had been making strides,” said Bishop. “We were actually seeing a dent in the homeless pet population and the feral cat colony populations.”
With many local shelters routinely at capacity, there is often nowhere for unwanted animals to go. Facebook posts in local groups requesting help housing abandoned dogs or cats are omnipresent. The area’s lack of resources puts people that do choose to take on additional animals in a tough position, said Bishop.
“It’s nothing for us to get contacted by people with 15 cats, 10 dogs, situations where things have gotten out of hand because people hadn’t been able to afford things, and now it’s even worse because we can’t help them,” said Bishop.
Bishop estimates the Big Bend Big Fix clinics served up to 200 animals a weekend when up and running, offering not only steeply-discounted spay and neuter services compared to local veterinarian prices, but administering vaccinations for common diseases such as rabies, parvo, distemper and feline leukemia as well as microchips.
But each clinic cost the humane society $30,000 to put on, and costs continued to increase, starting at $45 per procedure in 2020 and climbing to $150 overtime. AHS was asking pet owners to pay what they could and subsidizing the rest, which became unsustainable as gas prices and inflation continued to rise, said Bishop.
There were also costly repairs to an AHS van as various funding streams began to dry up.
“We’re really in danger of not making it,” said Bishop. “Our coalition partners, a lot of them are in the same boat. They’re having to turn people away, turn people down, carrying huge [balances] from the local vets on their accounts, which is hard on the local vets and their businesses.”
As it stands, AHS is only able to pay the minimum on their credit card balances which they use to pay bills from local vets. Bishop took herself off of payroll recently as a cost cutting measure.
She said AHS’s grant opportunities are limited, and while they received a $30,000 grant from the Permian Basin Area Foundation recently, they are unable to apply for another for two years.
The nonprofit does benefit from a $1 million trust gifted to them by a benefactor, but the way the trust is structured allows AHS to receive interest on the dividends from the stocks invested; their latest quarterly distributions were some of the lowest they have ever received, said Bishop.
“It has never provided us more than $60,000 in a year,” explained Bishop. “Our budget has been in the range of $300,000 a year.”
Support can be provided to the Alpine Humane Society and its programs by shopping at their thrift store in Alpine, becoming a monthly donor, or through legacy giving, said Bishop.
The organization has recently partnered with local bars in Alpine, which agreed to host happy hours with a portion of the proceeds going to AHS. This Saturday, September 29, AHS will host a burger basket benefit at Skeltons Runway, 300 S Cockrell St., from 5 p.m. until sold out.
The cost is $12 a plate. The venue, as well as food from Porter’s and Far West Texas Cattle Co., have been donated. AHS hopes to raise $2,000 through the event.
Bishop said, for now, AHS plans to hang on, hoping for a lifeline in the form of economic improvement or a generous donor. In the future, AHS plans to emphasize disseminating public information about pet ownership and its costs.
“There isn’t always some safety net out there,” said Bishop. “Before you take on a pet or you take in those five strays that were walking down your road, things like that, [we want] to educate people.”
For more information, visit alpinehumanesociety.org/