If you have ever watched The Price is Right with Bob Barker as the host, you are familiar with his words about reminding you to help control the pet population.
He continuously told TV viewers beginning in 1979 to have their pets spayed or neutered. It caught on eventually and now there are thousands upon thousands of advocates for animal population control. Spaying and neutering has become a common, every day practice for cats as well as dogs.
For some people, however, this solution is expensive although it could be more if there is no intervention. Now, thanks to a 501(C)3 organization, there is help to pay for this procedure not only for personal pets but for feral cats and abandoned animals as well. This group from outside of Wharton County in Cat Springs is called PUPS, acronym for Prevent Unwanted Pets, and was begun in November 2003, for the express purpose of helping people get their pets spayed or neutered. PUPS already spayed or neutered 32,000 animals and averages 250-300 surgeries a month.
PUPS founder Cheryl Mellenthin operates the program from her rural home in Cat Springs. Her organization provides services in counties west of Houston: Wharton, Colorado, Fort Bend, Washington, Waller, Lavaca, Fayette, and Austin. Although the main purpose is to help pay spay and neuter bills for people who can’t afford it, PUPS also provides help to people who foster animals to keep them from being euthanized.
To qualify for financial help from PUPS, a prospective client fills out a questionnaire. This helps determine what PUPS can pay. After being accepted, the client is told what their share of the expense would be. The client makes their own appointments and takes their pet to be cared for. After the client pays their share of the bill, the vet sends a bill to PUPS for the amount the organization agrees to pay.
PUPS depends on donations to accomplish all that it does.
“Every penny of donations is used to pay spay and neuter bills,” said Mellinthin. “We get zero government funding. No one associated with the PUPS program gets paid – everyone is a volunteer.”
PUPS raises money through fundraising events, grant writing, and sending out newsletters.
PUPS is limited in how many animals it can take into the foster program, Mellinthin said.
“We get them completely vetted (spayed or neutered, vaccinated, heartworm tested, get rid of parasites and get them microchipped),” she said. “Then we put them on several websites, put up flyers, use Facebook, and do adoption events (or used to, before the virus) to find them homes.”
If someone is interested in adopting through PUPS, a person fills out an application; PUPS will talk with them to see if the canine they like would be a good fit; and PUPS offers a one-week trial foster period prior to adoption.
Mellinthin described the biggest challenge is convincing people that PUPS can’t pay for regular pet care.
“We only pay for the spay or neuter part of the vet bill. That’s what we can afford,” said Mellinthin. “Also, convincing men that it’s okay to neuter their male dog. It’s a good thing, and is going to help with behavior issues with the dog.”
Wharton Veterinary Clinic is one of the businesses that has worked in cooperation with PUPS for several years.
Lori Motl, practice manager, said that PUPS has helped provide services for 127 spays and neuters through their clinic since Jan. 1.
“We have a very good relationship with them and they do a wonderful job with what they do,” said Motl. “I tell those ladies all the time that they do a spectacular job helping people. It’s just amazing. Neat people, too.”
Added Mellinthin: “If someone needs help spaying or neutering a pet, call 979-732-5591. We answer calls within 24 hours or on the next business day. Everyone associated with PUPS has regular jobs, so we ask people to be patient.”