SNIPSA’s Big Fix to San Antonio’s Stray Population

SNIPSA is a local organization committed to improving the lives of homeless and unwanted pets in San Antonio by encouraging responsibility. SNIPSA isn’t your traditional rescue; in fact, it isn’t a shelter at all. It’s a movement that centers around pet protection, reducing overpopulation, and the caring individuals that support it.

SNIPSA BIG FIX 5
Photo by Joel Pena

The organization, whose acronym stands for Spay Neuter, Inject, Protect of San Antonio, was created to help San Antonio be a more pet friendly city. In response to a 2006 article, Death by the Pound, published by the Express News, a group of veterinarians and friends set out to help reduce the nearly 50,000 cats and dogs being euthanized every year. With no plan or name, and only the resolve to truly make a difference, SNIPSA began operating out of the playroom of Executive Director Shannon Epsy’s home.

Today, SNIPSA and their support system have helped usher over 7,000 dogs and cats into their forever homes. With a small, but mighty, staff and no true kennels in house, the organization heavily relies on the help of local animal lovers who foster and volunteer at their events. Fosters open up their homes and care for the animals as if they were their own, blending them with their family and personal pets, and truly getting to know their personalities and quirks.

Brandi, a SNIPSA "adoptable. (Photo by Joel Pena)
Brandi, a SNIPSA “adoptable”. (Photo by Joel Pena)

Part of the reason this unique adoption model has been so successful is due to the fosters’ willingness to become familiar with the animals on a more intimate level. They take an honest assessment of their comforts and behavior with children and other pets. SNIPSA hosts adoption events two or three weekends a month, and fosters bring hopeful “adoptables” out for meet-and-greets with potential families. Foster parents are usually present throughout the events to help families determine if an animal will be a good fit.

“We get really involved with our fosters,” says Staci Freeman, Social Media Coordinator for SNIPSA. Because SNIPSA is a foster-based program, fosters play an important role throughout the adoption process. They often serve as the last line of defense in securing a permanent home for the animals they’re fostering. Matchmaking is serious business and prospective pet parents are thoroughly vetted to ensure these animals’ last years of life are full and happy. The office staff proofs incoming applicants, but ultimately places veto power in the hands of fosters. “They [foster parents] have these dogs or cats, they take care of them, and if they’re not okay with the adopter, then we’re not okay with the adopter,” says Staci. SNIPSA does its best to pair animals with parents according to fit. While a potential adopter might prefer a specific dog, sometimes they’re just not the best match. “There will be a fit,” Staci assures, “But, it’s not about the person, it’s about the dog.”

January, one of SNIPSA's pups. (Photo by Joel Pena)
January, one of SNIPSA’s pups. (Photo by Joel Pena)

The SNIPSA staff saves animals from kill shelters in the San Antonio area. The staff will take in an animal as long as it’s socialized and has no human bite history. The animals they pull from the pound range from bottle fed puppies and kittens, to older pets hours away from being euthanized. “If we have an open spot, we go out, same day, and get an animal to replace them. I always find myself wanting to pull the 5pm dogs,” says Staci, referring to a dog that faces euthanasia if it doesn’t get adopted by 5pm that day. These animals are literally escaping death, which magnifies the importance of responsible pet ownership.

Once in the care of SNIPSA, each animal is treated for heartworms, mange, and any other medical issues they may have. SNIPSA is currently able to foster between 60-70 animals at a time. Made up of about 50% dogs and 50% cats, the number of lives they can save is directly related to the amount of fosters SNIPSA has available. Spots are filled as quickly as they’re left, and the moment a vacancy becomes available, the SNIPSA staff is making moves to save another life.

The problem is concentrated in areas around the city where owners can’t afford the veterinary services to properly care for their pets. But, SNIPSA is breaking down these barriers by offering free spay/neuter services to underserved areas of the city.

San Antonio is on its way to becoming a no kill city, but part of that responsibility in achieving this lies in the citizens’ hands. As pet owners, we have to realize that simply doting on our animals is not the only way to care for them. Vaccinating, spaying, and neutering your pet is another form of love that also happens to reduce overpopulation and disease among the beloved animals in our community. SNIPSA is intent on addressing the overpopulation issue in San Antonio, too. The problem is concentrated in areas around the city where loving owners simply can’t afford the necessary veterinary services to properly care for their pets. But, SNIPSA is breaking down these barriers by offering free spay/neuter services to underserved areas of the city.

Since 2009, SNIPSA has made major pushes to impact these communities through their Big Fix event. Hosted five times a year, the Big Fix offers a free one-day clinic to service lower income neighborhoods in the city. SNIPSA sets up shop at local universities and civic centers as a convenient clinic that will spay, neuter, vaccinate, and microchip your pet for free.

SNIPSA BF2
Photo by Joel Pena

The San Antonio community has been extremely receptive to these efforts. Pets arrive at the Big Fix event in whatever owners can find; old milk crates, shoe boxes, and backpacks.  Incoming animals are admitted to a MASH-style clinic, set up to accommodate the over 300 dogs and cats that will be sterilized in a single day. Vets performing surgeries are lined up 20 tables deep, while volunteers help with everything from logistics, to comforting the furry patients in recovery.

SNIPSA BF
Photo by Joel Pena

The Big Fix is powered by a ton of coffee, volunteers, and a city grant that supports pet population control and protection. Cost free services are offered to select high-need zip codes throughout the city, and pets get the medical attention they desperately need. “The Big Fix is our main initiative,” says Staci. “It takes priority over everything, even adoption. Spay, Neuter, Inject, Protect, it’s everything we stand for. The big issue is to help control the pet population in San Antonio, and it starts with proactively fixing our animals.”

SNISA BIG FIX 4
Photo by Joel Pena

SNIPSA’s next Big Fix event is June 25th, 2016 at St. Mary’s University. You can check qualifying zip codes and register for the event here, but Staci recommends calling SNIPSA directly to make an appointment that will secure your fur baby’s spot on the big day.

Caring animal advocates are SNIPSA’s biggest asset, and they’re always accepting volunteers to help in office, at adoption events, or during the Big Fix. If you’re interested in donating your time, money, or old household items, visit SNIPSA.org, and get more involved!

SNIPSA BIG FIX 8
Photo by Joel Pena

Keep it real San Antonio, and remember to love your pets responsibly.

Connect with SNIPSA on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to keep up with their current “adoptables” and events.