With some North Texas pet owners struggling with access to animal care since the start of the pandemic, the Texas Coalition for Animal Protection has kept its doors open for pets in need.
The nonprofit organization, known as TCAP, supplies affordable spaying, neutering and other services for pets.
Since establishing its first clinic in Denton in 2002, TCAP has opened seven more clinics around North Texas.
TCAP differs from traditional veterinary hospitals in that it provides essential wellness care for a fraction of the cost of a full-service veterinarian. While the coalition is unable to provide visits for sick or injured pets, all other services are performed by a certified veterinarian.
“Just because it’s low-cost doesn’t mean it’s low-quality,” said Tiffany Ditto, TCAP’s marketing coordinator. “And yes, they are real vets.”
The coalition’s stated goal is focused on ending pet euthanasia as a whole and improving the lives of all pets in the community.
TCAP is able to provide subsidized savings at its clinics through money from donors and sponsors, which allow clients to care for their pets through low-cost co-pays.
From March 2020, when COVID-19 shutdowns began, through December, TCAP performed 53,253 spays and neuters across all eight clinics.
“People have been impacted financially now more than ever,” Ditto said. “We don’t want people to have to decide between food on the table and care for their pet.”
In 2020, TCAP administered an average of 100 vaccinations a day at its Denton location and brought in between 30 and 60 pets daily for spaying and neutering.
“It’s definitely been busier, but much more fulfilling since we’re here every day,” said Dr. Suzie Smith, a contract veterinarian at TCAP. “People are thanking us for our clinic being open; it really feels like we’re able to make a difference during this time of need.”
In compliance with COVID-19 restrictions, TCAP has set up a pet drop-off system to streamline the number of clients coming in and out of the clinic.
For spaying and neutering, a client can bring in a pet for an appointment in the morning, then pick the pet up that afternoon.
Vaccines are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.
During the day, a line manager stands outside to distribute paperwork to clients in their cars and hands them a number to wait with until a TCAP employee is available.
Five people are called up to the clinic at a time to maintain social distancing. As long as a client is in the queue by noon that day, TCAP veterinarians will serve them, even after closing time.
Enhanced cleaning protocols have been established, and masks are still required in all TCAP clinics.
Denton resident Eleata Swan recently took advantage of of TCAP’s vaccination process and heartworm testing for Maddie, her 4-year-old basset hound and beagle mix.
“I would absolutely recommend TCAP to other pet owners,” Swan said. “The people that work there were very thorough and handled everything really well during the pandemic.”
Swan also volunteers with Texas Cattle Dog Rescue of Texas and Basset Buddies, both of which receive help from TCAP to care for dogs.
TCAP served 177,000 animals and vaccinated 131,000 last year.
TCAP also runs monthly specials, which further discount its services. During the months of April and May, cat spays and neuters are free, marked down from the usual $45.
Jeri Sulzman, founder and medical director of the Animal Rescue Foundation of Texas, stressed the importance of regular vaccinations and checkups, in addition to spaying and neutering.
Sulzman works firsthand with TCAP to receive care for animals she brings in to the Animal Rescue Foundation from other shelters.
“For areas in Texas that don’t have clinics like TCAP, you can just see the huge population of feral cats and dogs running around,” Sulzman said. “It’s healthier for an animal to be fixed, and TCAP helps make that possible at an affordable rate.”
Sulzman said she has brought in her own pets to TCAP for vaccines, dental work and heartworm tests.
“I’m a huge advocate for TCAP, but it’s still important for your pet to see a full-service vet once a year,” Sulzman said. “At the bare minimum, please fix your pets.”
For more information about TCAP’s monthly specials and other events, visit texasforthem.org.