Puppy population explodes: Spay/neuter programs best solution

by Lauren LaFleur Contributing writer

CHEROKEE COUNTY – Dava Cooley Cook, founder of County Roads Rescue in Cherokee County, has a unique and troublesome problem – she has so many puppies she’s rescued, she is unable to rescue any more.

At least for now.

“We’ve had to close our intake until we can catch back up,” she said. “But we are getting calls left and right.”

Cook said the period from February to May is the when the rescue sees its highest intake numbers for puppies, but another spike usually comes in September.

“So almost half the year is ‘puppy and kitten season,’” she said.

Andrea Grimes, founder of Cherokee County Texas Spay Neuter, agreed.

“It seems that puppy and kitten season never ended this past year,” she said, “and we are seeing a big boom right now.”

A City of Jacksonville representative said the city gets at least three calls a week regarding litters of puppies and kittens. So far this year, 42 cats and 144 dogs have been rescued by the city, including one litter of puppies and four litters of kittens.

The rescue in Jacksonville currently has 60 rescued dogs, with two new litters of puppies that will be ready for adoption in a couple of weeks.

Cook said the fact that people in Cherokee County do not spay and neuter their animals exacerbates the number of rescues she has to make.

“Most of the litters we rescue are either obviously abandoned – left on the side of the road, at our facility, and the like, in boxes or crates – or they are litters whose mother was a pet and passed away or gone missing, and now the owner needs someone to take the babies,” she said. “Or [they] are families overwhelmed by the number of animals they now have after accidental litters.”

Cook said she has been working to estimate how many litters of puppies are abandoned in Cherokee County each year, and has started logging all calls she receives in hopes of coming up with an estimate.

“I do know that it is such an overwhelming number that my team and the rescue [organizations] we partner with cannot respond to all of the calls,” she said.

Cook said the solution to lowering the abandoned pet population is for people to spay and neuter their pets.

This is where Grimes offers help. Her organization gives vouchers for free spay/neuter procedures to anyone who applies for one, as long as her funds will allow.

“Dehart Mobile Vet and Our Family Vet in Jacksonville both take my vouchers,” she said.

Applications for vouchers are available from her the CCTSN website, via email if requested, by mail and at the Jacksonville Animal Shelter, which gives an application to everyone who adopts from them.

“Even if the animal is adopted by someone who does not reside in our county, I will assist with a voucher because the animal itself came from Cherokee County,” she said.

Since its October 2019, Grimes said the organization has given out 443 vouchers for spay/neuter procedures – 181 dogs and 262 cats. She said those who receive a voucher for a free procedure are responsible for the cost of the state-required rabies shot and any pain medications sent home for the animal after the surgery.

“My goal is to end dog and cat dumping due to unwanted litters,” she said. “Dog dumping in Cherokee County is a huge issue.”

In the meantime, people can help by spreading the word about rescue organizations in the area, foster or volunteer for a local organization, or adopt from a rescue or shelter instead of getting free puppies and kittens from social media, Cook said.

Both CCTSN and CRR rely on donations, grants and gifts to operate.

CCTSN can be found on Facebook at facebook.com/CherokeeCountyTexasSpayNeuter. Donations can be made on Facebook using the donation button, or people can contribute via PayPal at paypal.me/cctsn. Checks can also be mailed to P.O. Box 2086, Jacksonville TX, 75766, and Grimes can be reached by telephone at 903-284-0140.
CRR’s website is countyroadsrescue.org, and it can be found on Facebook at facebook.com/CountyRoadsRescue. Donations can be made through their website or may be dropped from off 9-11 a.m. at 601 Woodlawn Ave., Jacksonville. They can also be reached via email at countyroadsrescue@gmail.com, to set up an alternate donation time.

County Roads Rescue also has an Amazon wishlist linked on their website for those who would like to help by send