Editor's note: Bonnie Arbittier, Photographer and Rescue Dog Advocate, contributed to this article.
Five years ago, when I moved from Chicago to San Antonio, I didn’t expect to become so passionate and so involved in animal rescue. Right away though, I noticed a huge number of dogs and cats roaming the streets of my neighborhood (Lavaca) and nearby neighborhoods. That prompted me to act. In fact, I took in my first street dog before we had even unpacked from the move. That dog — who I later named Jackfruit — didn’t have a microchip or a collar, and he was not neutered. After weeks of searching for an owner, I officially fostered him through my neighborhood animal rescue. Since Jackfruit, there have been so many other dogs in worse condition that I have fostered — NONE of which were neutered or spayed when I found them.
And dogs are not the only problem: this area has a lot of feral cats. I quickly learned about Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), which is a program where community cats are humanely trapped, vaccinated, sterilized, marked, and returned to the trap location. It’s proven to be the only long term solution to humanely control cat populations. The Cannoli Fund is a local non-profit that has done tremendous work in this area and has made significant strides in controlling the feral cat population in King William and Lavaca.
In spite of all the good efforts of animal lovers in the city, however, San Antonio has an animal overpopulation crisis, and it is simply not getting better.
According to San Antonio’s Animal Care Services, there are over 34,000 strays roaming the streets of San Antonio at any given time. Those who are not neutered or spayed will continue to multiply. There simply are not enough homes for these animals. Hundreds of healthy adoptable animals are killed yearly at San Antonio Animal Care Services due to lack of space. In the month of May 2023, 253 dogs were killed because the shelter was over capacity. The live release rate continues to decrease from last year’s rate due to the overpopulation crisis.
It’s heartbreaking to see so many animals without homes — litters of sickly puppies on the side of the road, and lost feral kittens who can’t seem to find their mothers. It’s overwhelming if you are an animal lover, especially if you work in animal rescue or welfare.
Inspired by the recent city council election signage, I designed and custom-ordered yard signs that read “SPAY / NEUTER Your Pet.” Two local animal rescues are benefiting from a portion of the proceeds from the signs.
"Spay / Neuter Your Pet" yard sign
The SPAY/NEUTER signage campaign launched Thursday, June 15th. Several enthusiastic local animal advocates and supporters joined in: thirty-six signs were in residents’ yards by Saturday, June 17th in almost every district in San Antonio. Signs have made it as far as Boerne, Driscoll, and Uvalde.
If you are interested in purchasing a sign, please visit Southtown 101 Bar and Grill at 101 Pereida Street
My goal with these yard signs is to remind pet owners to be responsible by doing their part and to inspire them to keep spreading the word. Hopefully, the signs will spark conversations between neighbors and people can educate one another.
For example, not everybody knows that getting your pet “fixed” (spayed or neutered) provides many health and other benefits to your pets.
Neutering your male pet prevents testicular cancer and some prostate problems, if done at an appropriate age. A male dog is also less likely to roam away from home. Unaltered dogs and cats are more likely to mark their territory by spraying strong smelling urine. Some aggression problems may be avoided by early neutering.
Female pet companions will live a healthier and longer life. Spaying prevents uterine infections and decreases the incidence of breast tumors. By spaying your pet before her first heat cycle, you’re offering the best protection from these diseases.
Spaying and neutering your pets is also cost-effective. The cost of surgery is far less then the cost of having and caring for a litter. There are several low cost clinics in San Antonio. Some even offer free services depending on your zip code. Take a look here at a list of low cost or free spay & neuter facilities in San Antonio.
Over the years, I have become more and more involved in fostering and volunteering for my neighborhood rescue. And I have become an active advocate for our community’s animals. I am a founding member of both the Lavaca Animal Welfare Committee and the San Antonio Animal Collaborative. I attend as many ACS Advisory Board meetings as I can to keep myself educated. In addition, I’ve met with the prior District 1 city council member regarding animal welfare issues. I’ve personally helped over twenty-five dogs and several cats off the streets in just my neighborhood and I feed or give water to those I can’t take in.
This has been hard work, but it comes with many rewards. One of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had happened just a few weeks ago: I found a young female dog in 90-degree weather who was in her heat cycle. She was roaming around the riverwalk. Luckily, she was microchipped, so I was able to contact her owner and arrange for a low cost spay appointment that week. I’m so glad I found her when I did — if I hadn’t, I’m sure she would have attracted a male dog, gotten pregnant, and had puppies on the street.
This is why spay and neuter is so important. It enriches the lives of the animals, of the workers who volunteer their services to help, and of the community as a whole. The SA government reports on its website that “Roaming animals pose a real problem in many parts of the country. They can prey on wildlife, cause car accidents, and frighten children. Spaying and neutering packs a powerful punch in reducing the number of animals on the streets.”
Jen Galletti fosters dogs for the Footbridge Foundation and has volunteered with the Cannoli Fund TNR proogram.