BUSINESS

Mississippi MUTTS fights overpopulation in a state where 44% of pets are not spayed or neutered

Mom and nursing puppies at transport. Photo by Emma Heasley.

Emma Heasley
Oxford Stories
ekheasle@go.olemiss.edu

Twice a month, the Mississippi MUTTS leadership team and volunteers meet outside of PetSmart to load the transport van with animals heading to their forever homes in Chicago, Illinois.

Mississippi MUTTS is a non-profit animal rescue and transport team based in Oxford that works to mitigate the overpopulation of stray cats and dogs across the state and provide relief for overcrowded shelters.

Because there is not a physical location, the organization uses fosters to temporarily home the dogs until they are sent to adopting families in Chicago. MUTTS stands for Mississippi Underdog Transport Team Spay and Neuter.

Founder and President Katie Muldoon said overpopulation is the reason Mississippi MUTTS was created. “There is an overwhelming stray animal problem in Mississippi,” said Muldoon. “Our primary mission is to support a life-saving foster and transport program in order to rescue animals at risk of euthanasia, neglect, or harm due to overpopulation.”

According to Investopedia, Mississippi is one of the poorest states in America. People are unable to afford proper veterinary care that would slow overpopulation rates, such as spay and neuters.

The Humane Society of the United States shared that 44% of the state’s pets are not spayed or neutered. Not spaying or neutering pets is detrimental to the state’s overpopulation problem.

Mississippi MUTTS Social Media Coordinator Taylor Battey works to involve the community through Instagram and Facebook by finding volunteers, encouraging donations, and sharing stories of the animals in the program.

Taylor grew up in Jackson and understands how severe the state’s overpopulation problem is. She blames failure of understanding the importance of spaying and neutering animals paired with off-leash pets. 

“Mississippi definitely has a bigger overpopulation problem than most states because people aren’t as educated on the importance of spaying and neutering pets,” said Battey. “Especially in rural parts of Mississippi, people let their pets run off leash, and they constantly reproduce, and it’s a never-ending cycle.”

The organization promotes the spay and neuter of pets, but the rapid reproduction problem isn’t slowing down. Every day, the team receives admissions requests for animals in need of their help.

Four of the puppies in the Mississippi MUTTS foster program. Photo by Emma Heasley.
Four of the puppies in the Mississippi MUTTS foster program. Photo by Emma Heasley.

The Mississippi MUTTS team looks toward the Oxford community for support, especially in fostering. Fostering allows members of the community to open their heart and home to an animal in need before they are transported to their forever home up North.

The foster period lasts for two weeks, and supplies are provided by the organization. Supplies include crates, food, puppy pads, and anything else needed to care for their new furry roommate. 

The organization does allow adoption to fosters, but does not focus on this aspect. This is one way Mississippi MUTTS is different from other rescues. They work to transport and relocate these animals in efforts to save resources for animals remaining in Mississippi and encourage adopters to save a life from a shelter who may otherwise face euthanasia. 

“We do not focus on an adoption program, and instead work to transport animals to a larger audience of adopters in a region of the country that has fewer puppies and kittens available for adoption,” said Muldoon. “Many of our animals are adopted before they leave on transport.”

Madison Karis, an Ole Miss student and a foster coordinator for Mississippi MUTTS, aims to find foster homes for animals entering the MUTTS program. Because the organization does not have a physical location to house animals, foster homes are vital to the success of the organization’s mission. Karis said fostering is a great volunteer opportunity for all ages in the Oxford Community.

“Fostering a dog or cat gives members of the community a fun way to volunteer as well as the opportunity to save a life and make a change in the community first-hand,” said Karis. “We couldn’t do life-saving work without our amazing fosters.”

Karis also discussed how many of their fosters are Ole Miss students. Several Mississippi MUTTS volunteers use the foster period to determine if they’re ready for adoption and have the time to commit to a pet full time.

“It’s a great test run for people debating a full time adoption,” said Karis. “Another draw factor for other student fosters is being away from home and missing their dog.”

The best way to stay up to date with foster needs is to follow the organization on social media. When fosters are needed, Mississippi MUTTS will post on Facebook and Instagram with contact information and foster dates. More information about the foster program can be found at msmutts.org.

Another goal of Mississippi MUTTS is to bring the community together in support of their mission. The event planners, Meghan Titus and Meghan Dulaney, work together to organize events that include both college students and the full time Oxford residents.

“It’s important that we are sharing our mission with everyone, whether it be college students, Oxford families, or business owners,” said Dulaney. “We work to plan diverse events that anyone would enjoy so we can encourage everyone to come out and support.”

Mississippi MUTTS was founded two years ago by Muldoon and Moni Simpson. Since their establishment in August of 2017, the organization has successfully transported over 1,000 animals and expanded their volunteer base. The organization encourages community support and stands by the hashtag slogan #TogetherWeCanSaveThemAll.

“I spend my time volunteering with Mississippi MUTTS because I am actually able to see a difference I’m making with every single dog that comes into our care,” said Battey. “It’s a wonderful organization with people who care so much about what they’re doing and being a part of it makes me incredibly happy.”

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