In Jackson County, a small group is working to address the rising population of stray animals.

Spay Neuter Jackson County (SNJC) is a non-profit formed last year. While their numbers of animals successfully fixed is high, there remains an ever-growing problem.

“Last year we fixed 244 dogs and cats in Jackson County,” said Heather Carlin who is with the non-profit and also an Animal Control Officer for the city of Scottsboro.

Carlin said that the group has been able to transport 191 animals to spay and neuter clinics in Huntsville and Fayetteville, Tennessee.

SNJC also began a voucher program for low-income households with pets, making spay and neuter services more affordable.

In January of this year, the group had issued 43 vouchers. However, they have had to temporarily suspend the voucher program due to lack of funding.

“As a non-profit we operate on donations and event money,” said Carlin.

The problem is evident by the volume of animals brought in to the Scottsboro–Jackson County Animal Shelter. The shelter remained busy throughout January and February of this year.

“In January, the shelter took in 53 county dogs and 29 city dogs,” said Carlin. “In February, we took in 26 city dogs and 23 county dogs, and a lot of the city dogs were puppies.”

Carlin said that the county consistently brings more animals in to the shelter than the city of Scottsboro.

One factor to this is the leash law that is in effect in the city, but not in the county.

Animals within the city limits must be on a leash or retained on their owner’s property. If the animal leaves it’s owner’s property it is subject to be picked up.

“With the leash law, you have to have the animals contained to your property,” said Carlin. “As long as they don’t go out of your property you are fine.”

Another issue that animal owners both in the county and in the city contribute to is not fixing their pets before transitioning them from being an inside pet to an outside pet.

“For example, people get a puppy and keep it inside, and then eventually move it outside,” said Carlin. “It gets pregnant and has the puppies and then they bring the litter to us.”

One litter can contain up to 16 puppies, according to Carlin.

“The capacity fills up pretty quick,” she said. “We have 48 cages and four out behind the building. We don’t want to keep them full because it runs more of a risk of disease for the puppies and dogs. If a rescue group can’t take dogs or cats for a few weeks, we have to have somewhere to keep them.

“Say I have 16 puppies that can’t be rescued for two weeks then I have 16 more puppies come in, and those will probably be euthanized because of space,” said Carlin. “We had to euthanize 22 dogs in January and 10 cats. In February, we had to euthanize 19 dogs and eight cats.”

The goal of the group and the shelter is to eventually be a no-kill shelter, but Carlin said that it cannot happen without the help of the public.

“Spay and neutering is the biggest thing,” said Carlin. “Some people will come in and give us this litter of puppies saying that they can’t find homes for them, but what people don’t realize is that if they can’t give them away, I can’t adopt them out either. Legally in the state, any animal that comes out of the shelter needs to be spayed and neutered. That runs anywhere from $100 to $120 depending on the veterinarian.

“If you can’t give them away, $100 to $120 is hard for someone to adopt them,” said Carlin.

Spay Neuter Jackson County volunteer Julie Sands said that another misconception is that the new owner through adoption would get the pets fixed.

“Some people think as long as they are giving away these litters to good homes it doesn’t matter, but the new owners are not getting the pets fixed either,” Sands said. “They are still reproducing and having puppies.”

Carlin talked about the risks of not spaying and neutering besides the euthanizing of animals.

“You run the risks of more animal bites and attacks,” said Carlin. “There is property destruction and rabies [related to] overpopulation.”

Foster homes are a significant need in the county.

Carlin said that currently there is only one foster home in Jackson County, and more are needed.

The group is holding events throughout the coming months to help raise awareness of this growing problem.

On March 23, the group will host their second “No More Cattin’ Around” spay and neuter event, which will offer services only to cats. The cost is $30 for neutering and $60 for spaying. There is a $12 requirement for rabies vaccination unless proof can be provided of a current rabies vaccination.

To participate in this event, you must be a Jackson County resident, and have an annual household income less than $45,000 or be receiving Medicaid, food stamps, WIC or disability.

The organizing group also asks that everyone limit two cats per household.

For more information, visit the Rolling Pet Mobile Vet on Facebook or email scottsborospayneuter@yahoo.com.

Spay Neuter Jackson County also will be at the Market on the Square in Scottsboro on April 21. They will hand out applications for their spay and neuter program, and provide information about the transport system.

On May 19, the group will host a yard sale at 809 W. Willow St. SNJC is in need of yard sale donation items that can be dropped off at Bobby O’ Bryans at 712 S. Broad St., or call 256-299-9726 for a pick up.

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