Families who feel they can’t afford to have their pets spayed or neutered could be eligible for help from a state grant awarded to Mansfield Animal Care and Control.The $5,000 grant from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will pay the families’ share of the bill for low-cost surgeries conducted for the Mansfield center.“We want to spay and neuter as many Mansfield animals as we can,” said shelter manager Lori Rodriguez. “And, ideally, it will lower the intake into the animal shelter because we won’t have as many unwanted litters of puppies and kittens, especially kittens -- we get a whole lot of them.”Police Chief Gary Fowler said that when families are tightening their budgets because of economic struggles, basic care for their pets often is put off or ignored. And adopting a pet becomes too expensive, because shelters require vaccinations and sterilization.“We’ve seen an increase in animals two-fold -- those coming to the shelter because families could not afford them, and a decrease in adopting animals out because people just couldn’t pay for all that,” Fowler said. “That’s why we went for the grant.”The grant was awarded in December, but so far only $250 of it has been used -- for one female and three male dogs, said Alma Roden, city grant manager. She said the city shelter is trying to get the word out and plans to circulate fliers. She said volunteers for Meals On Wheels Inc. of Tarrant County who deliver meals to Mansfield seniors and disabled people are carrying applications that they can give to families who might be eligible.The money has to be used by Dec. 6.The grant is designed to assist families at or below the poverty level, which for a family of four is $23,000 a year, according to federal guidelines.The shelter already helps low-income families by arranging spay-neuter surgeries for their pets at two clinics in Burleson and Fort Worth that are partly staffed by the Texas Coalition for Animal Protection, which provides discount pricing. The clinics charge $50 per surgery, a cost the grant will pay.“We’re getting more bang for the buck,” Rodriguez said.Although the surgery is free for the pets of eligible families, they must pay $5 for a rabies shot and $10 for a city license for their pet, if they haven’t already met those state and city obligations, Roden said.The shelter, which has a pair of 1,923-square-foot buildings for kennels and other services, has the capacity to keep 20 cats and 46 dogs. Lately, due to a recent rash of adoptions, the facility currently holds about five cats and 25 to 30 dogs, Rodriguez said.“We’ve had good luck with adoptions lately,” Fowler said, “but it gets full in there sometimes.”A 2,000-square-foot expansion of the shelter was included in preliminary plans for a city bond election in May. The City Council last week decided to put the bond off at least until the next available election date in November.
Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641 Twitter: @Kaddmann