GULFPORT, MS (January 22, 2024) On February 1 Gulf Coast Community Foundation will launch FIXED For Life, a program to help residents in George, Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Pearl River, and Stone counties spay and neuter their pets at no cost. Residents in these counties can apply online for FIXED for Life vouchers during February, which is also Spay and Neuter Awareness Month.
To make this program accessible to as many households as possible, there will be certain restrictions, including income level and a limit of two pets per household.
GCCF is partnering with animal welfare agencies in the six counties chosen to participate in FIXED for Life. The agencies include Dixie Adoptables in George County, Friends of the Animal Shelter in Hancock County, Humane Society of South Mississippi in Harrison County, Friends of Jackson County Animal Shelter, Pearl River County SPCA, and Stone County SPCA. Throughout February, the agencies will screen applications from their respective counties. Those selected to receive vouchers will have 60 days from the voucher issue dates to schedule appointments for spay/neuter services at veterinary clinics selected by the applicants’ animal welfare agencies.
FIXED for Life is made possible by the Jack A. and Gertrude W. Wilson Animal Welfare Fund, which is administered by GCCF. Since 2001, this fund has provided grants to help save countless animals’ lives, both domestic and wild, and to help control the population of cats and dogs in South Mississippi through spay and neuter vouchers. More than $1 million in grants has been awarded from the fund since its establishment.
“The Gulf Coast Community Foundation is proud to carry on the legacy of the Wilsons,” said Christen H. Duhé, president and executive director of GCCF. “We hope this program is beneficial to families and their furry family members and helps us foster a more responsible and caring community.”
Representatives of the participating animal welfare agencies are thrilled to be part of FIXED for Life, especially when one considers the dire need for low- or no-cost spay/neuter programs in the South and the results of leaving both male and female dogs and cats intact. An intact dog can produce an average of two litters in one year, and depending on the size and breed, a dog could become pregnant as early as 4 months old. The average number of puppies in a canine litter is six to 10, and up to 508 puppies can be born from one intact female dog and her offspring in seven years. An intact cat can become pregnant as early as 4 months old and can produce an average of three litters in one year. The average number of kittens in a feline litter is four to six, and up to 4,948 kittens can be born from one intact female cat and her offspring in seven years.
In South Mississippi, these facts are an everyday concern for animal welfare advocates like Dr. Katie Stonnington, Stone County SPCA president. She said, “The Stone County SPCA is thrilled to be part of FIXED for Life. If we can get a large portion of the pet owners in our county to spay and neuter their pets, then the number of unwanted pets would be significantly reduced.”
Stonnington added that during 2023 the Stone County SPCA helped spay and neuter close to 100 community pets through its discount-voucher program. “The funds available through FIXED for Life should allow that number to more than double,” she added. “The demand for unwanted pets to enter the shelter has been extremely high as inflation has risen and the economy has weakened in the past two years. This demand will drop with an effective spay/neuter program. Likewise, the number of stray animals wandering the streets should also drop.”
Penne Rappold with FRIENDS of the Animal Shelter in Hancock County said, “FRIENDS has a robust spay/neuter program for pet owners in Hancock County and has provided 1,251 pet owners with no-cost spay/neuter for their pets during the past year. That’s more than 100 pet dogs and cats fixed every month! FIXED for Life will enable FRIENDS to continue and expand this vital program.”
Rappold added that FRIENDS has provided free spay/neuter services to pet owners for the past 10 years and has seen admissions to the Hancock County Animal Shelter go from 2,112 animals in 2013 down to 1,284 in 2023, marking a 40 percent decrease due in large part to spay/neuter programs. “But 1,284 animals are still too many. That’s almost four animals every day of the year,” Rappold said. “Programs like FIXED for Life are the single best way to prevent animal overpopulation and end euthanasia of unwanted dogs and cats.”
In George County, Jessica Roberts with Dixie Adoptables said, “Since there is no animal shelter for George County, unwanted dogs and cats are all too often dumped in rural areas to fend for themselves through no fault of their own. FIXED for Life will remove the barrier for people in the community who want to fix their pet but might not be able to afford to do so and help prevent this vicious circle of unwanted animals.”
Over the years, Roberts said, small community efforts toward spaying and neutering, including a previous spay-and-neuter voucher program, have prevented well over 35,000 unwanted births.
As Pearl River County’s only brick-and-mortar animal shelter, the Pearl River County SPCA has been overwhelmed by requests to rehome pets, especially unintentional litters of outdoor cats and dogs, said Elizabeth Treadway, PRCSPCA director. “We are thrilled to partner with Gulf Coast Community Foundation to offer a unique opportunity for spay-neuter services! This partnership will allow local residents to afford the services they so desperately require to preserve the human-animal bond.”
Arin King, Community Clinic director at the Humane Society of South Mississippi, said HSSM is honored to partner with GCCF to help reduce pet overpopulation in South Mississippi through spay/neuter. “HSSM has successfully completed 6,500 spay/neuter surgeries in the past year, and we are excited to be able to do even more in 2024 with the support of GCCF,” she said.
Tammy Harris, president of Friends of Jackson County Animal Shelter Pets, is excited to be part of the FIXED for Life program. “Thanks to the Jack A. and Gertrude W. Wilson Animal Welfare Fund, we have provided more than 534 free spay/neuter for dogs and cats to people in Jackson County since 2019,” she said. “We identified a huge void in access to low-cost spay/neuter, and we provided those residents with free spay/neuter, and it has had an immediate and lasting impact on the welfare of residents and their pets.
“Without access to affordable spay/neuter, residents and pets struggle with unwanted litters, health problems, behavior problems, and disruptive heat cycles,” Harris added. “We found that for many residents, spay/neuter is a priority but is financially out of reach. FJCASP is looking forward to helping even more residents and pets and help with the pet overpopulation situation in Jackson County and hopefully decrease the number of dogs and cats who end up in the shelter.”
To stay up to date on the FIXED for Life program, including the announcement of the live application, “like” or “follow” GCCF and the participating agencies on Facebook and Instagram. If you would like to become a donor to a fund administered by GCCF or establish a fund to benefit a cause close to your heart, visit mgccf.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 228-897-4841 to learn more.