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SPCA of East Texas works to improve lives of animals in need

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Scrappy the Chihuahua was aggressive to most people, but with the help of an adoptive owner and a local nonprofit, he’s got a new home.

Scrappy is one of two dogs Angela Welch, 43, of Tyler, has adopted through the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, more commonly known as the SPCA of East Texas

“He definitely got a second chance at my house,” Welch said.

She also had an English bulldog named Tank. He was her first dog to adopt from the SPCA. She said the connection with Tank led her to the adoption. He later died due to significant health problems, she said.

“You want to try to connect with that dog or cat,” she said. “It’s opening up your heart to that animal.”

For almost 10 years, the SPCA of East Texas has worked to reduce the stray population and better the lives of animals across the region.

Located in Tyler, the SPCA rescues animals from many counties. Deborah Dobbs, the organization’s founder and president, said they get calls from Van Zandt County to the Louisiana border, and typically pick up animals from Smith County and the counties surrounding it.

Rather than a shelter environment, where all the animals stay at one location, the SPCA of East Texas is a foster-based and volunteer organization for dogs and cats. Here, the animal goes with a foster family temporarily to learn basic manners.

Dobbs said the fostering “makes for a much better family member” for the future adoptive home.

In addition to adopting, Welch also fosters cats and dogs through the SPCA.

“Knowing that our community has (the SPCA) to offer makes it easier to be a pet owner,” she said. “It’s amazing to see what a little attention will do for a dog or a cat. It taught me a lot of stuff that I didn’t know. I was pretty clueless about the overcrowding (of animals).”

How fostering works

Once an application to foster a pet is completed, the SPCA conducts a home visit to assess the safety of the potential foster family. The organization considers several factors such as the family’s current pets, if the pets’ shots are up to date, number of children, presence of a yard and other safety concerns.

If approved to foster, the family houses the pet while the SPCA pays for pet food and veterinary care. Foster families have a support network offered to them, including a 24/7 veterinary technician to ask questions.

Karen Parker-Kilgore, SPCA of East Texas foster and volunteer coordinator, said through fostering, the animals learn how to socialize, respond to commands and show their personality.

“The SPCA cannot take an animal in without having a foster family for them to go to,” she said, adding that there are about 130 foster families in the local program.

“We always need more families,” Parker-Kilgore said. “You have to have the compassion and heart to help rescue an animal.”

The foster process ideally leads to the adoption of a pet. Each Saturday, the foster family brings the animal to the adoption office at 4517 Old Bullard Road.

If the pet is adopted, the foster family says goodbye and they can meet with the adoptive family. If there’s not an adoption, the pet can return for the next event, Dobbs said.

Sometimes the foster family can get so attached to the pet, they choose to adopt it.

Health and wellness

In addition to the fostering program, the SPCA operates the Snippet Clinic, a wellness and spay/neuter clinic that is available to the public.

Wellness and prevention services for cats and dogs are provided three days a week with no emergency services. The hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. the first and third Saturday at 3405 East Northeast Loop 323 in Tyler.

“Our focus is preventative care to make it affordable for everyone to have a pet,” Dobbs said.

While the clinic normally performs spay/neuter services, Snippet Clinic is without a professional who can do that type of surgery at the moment. Those wanting to schedule an appointment can call 903-592-7705 for a callback surgery. The clinic will call once available dates are known, according to the website.

SPCA of East Texas also has added an 8-acre dog park, Bossart Bark Park, located off Grande Boulevard between Texas Highway 155 and Old Jacksonville Highway in Tyler.

Dobbs said the park has been open for over a year. It is open from dawn to dusk for small and large dogs. It includes drinking fountains for dogs and humans, a lake, woods and benches.

“It’s a beautiful oasis in the middle of Tyler,” she said.

Other advocacy work

Although much of the work is in rescue and adoption locally, the organization does advocate for animals in other ways.

Each month, SPCA of East Texas transports dogs to areas that have an underpopulation of animals like the northeastern United States. The animals go to like-minded rescues and organizations with similar adoption processes, Dobbs said.

Due to stricter spay/neuter laws, that area has less of a stray population compared with the South, Dobbs said.

“We don’t spay and neuter in the South, but we’re getting there,” she said.

The organization also works to prevent cases of animal cruelty through the use of a hotline and, when needed, referrals to law enforcement.

“Abandoning an animal is a misdemeanor, and I would love to see more enforcement of those laws in our community,” Dobbs said.

She said a common misconception about this SPCA is that it’s affiliated with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Local SPCAs are independently funded through local donations.

“We do as much as we can,” Dobbs said. “Volunteers and funding are our two biggest struggles.”

TWITTER: @Tylerpaper

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