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Pet PALS relies on volunteers, donations to control animal population


MARBLE FALLS — Pat Felton walks among the kennels hugging a small dog to her chest. A blanket gently wrapped around the dog fends off the slight chill in the air.

“He’s kind of thin, so the cold gets to him,” Felton said. “I’ll just walk around with him until he comes out, then I’ll do whatever I need to next.”

Felton is one of the many volunteers who staff the Marble Falls Pet PALS spay/neuter clinics. The program provides low-cost spay and neuter services to pet owners.

“If it weren’t for this, many people just wouldn’t be able to afford getting their pets fixed,” Felton said. “I just love doing this.”

About twice a month, Pet PALS offers services at its clinic, 2003 RR 1431. The next clinic is Jan. 25, but organizers said it’s already full. Still, interested pet owners can call and get on a waiting list. But it’s only a few more weeks following that one until the next clinics on Feb. 12 and 22.

Pat Felton keeps a dog warm after its spay/neuter procedure at the Marble Falls Pet PALS clinic on Jan. 15. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton
Pat Felton keeps a dog warm after its spay/neuter procedure at the Marble Falls Pet PALS clinic on Jan. 15. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

“The idea is we just want to spay and neuter as many dogs and cats as we can,” Debbie Nelson of Pet PALS said. “We want to prevent the dogs and cats in the Highland Lakes from having more unwanted puppies and kittens.”

The overpopulation of pets is something volunteer Jacey Ferguson knows about first hand. When she’s not volunteering for Pet PALS, she’s the Marble Falls Police Department’s animal control officer.

“I’m not sure people really know how many stray dogs and cats are out there,” she said. “A lot of that could be avoided by getting your dog or cat spayed or neutered. I really promote (Pet PALS).”

In fact, when somebody adopts a dog or a cat from the city of Marble Falls animal shelter, they sign a contract agreeing to get the animal fixed within a certain amount of time from picking up the dog or cat.

Pet PALS relies on volunteers along with the support of local veterinarians such as Dr. Bill Riddle and Dr. Erin Katribe to conduct the clinics. While the clinics are a big part of Pet PALS, a lot of work goes on between clinic dates to keep the program up and running. As a nonprofit, Pet PALS relies on donations and fundraisers. Sometimes, it’s the volunteers who offer up some creative fundraising projects.

Nelson said one of the volunteers, Judy Vanatta, came up with the idea of doing odd jobs or projects such as picking grapes, dog sitting or “whatever they needed” for friends. For her “pay,” Vanatta had the people make a donation to Pet PALS.

“She raised enough money so we could buy a back-up anesthesia machine,” Nelson said. “That’s the kind of volunteers we have. They’re the greatest volunteers in the world.”

The volunteers help check in pets, help prepare the animals for surgery, monitor the animals after surgery (sometimes clipping nails and brushing fur), clean materials, run for more materials and just about everything else that keeps the doors open.

But more volunteers are always welcome.

“We could definitely use a few more men,” volunteer Kathy Grimes said. “Some of these dogs are pretty heavy, and it’s hard to get them into their (kennel) while they’re still asleep (from anesthesia). It’s like picking up some dead weight.”

Along with volunteers, donations are also accepted. Money is nice, but Nelson said they can always use more old towels, paper towels and clothes. Even extra leashes would be nice.

“If you want to volunteer or help, we’ll find a place for you,” Nelson said.

Go to or email or for more information. You also may call (830) 598-7729 to get involved or learn more.