Sixty-eight yapping puppies and eight kittens, all snuggled in small carriers, were loaded up on a brisk Saturday afternoon, bound for new homes in northern Virginia thanks to the efforts of the Mississippi Underdog Transport Team.
Mississippi MUTTS is a nonprofit founded by Katie Muldoon to help ease the problem of overcrowding in local animal shelters. The organization facilitates the rescue, foster, transport and adoption of animals from all over the state. Since its launch in mid-August, Mississippi MUTTS has saved the lives of nearly 400 dogs and cats.
Muldoon, a feisty and driven law school graduate, has always had a desire to help animals. During her time as a student at the University of Mississippi School of Law, she served as a board member and adoption counselor at the Oxford-Lafayette Humane Society and started a local chapter of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund. She also interned for both the ASPCA and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, D.C.
Though she enjoyed her work on Capitol Hill, Muldoon decided to come back to Oxford, where the need was greatest.
“I realized that Mississippi is really where I needed to be,” Muldoon said. “There were literally lives being lost in the time being, so I just looked at the situation and thought,
why not now.”
Younger animals are more susceptible to the diseases rampant in crowded shelters, and therefore are more likely to have to be euthanized. Muldoon’s idea was to bypass the shelter and send these youngsters directly to foster or forever homes, saving lives and freeing up valuable space and resources for other animals.
A small group of volunteers handles the daily operation of the organization and helps with transportation efforts. Volunteer Tamara Austin first found out about Mississippi MUTTS after rescuing a very sick little kitten she named Jack. Though Jack had already contracted feline infectious peritonitis, a progressive and fatal disease, Muldoon helped Austin make Jack’s last days peaceful.
Inspired by Muldoon, Austin has been volunteering with Mississippi MUTTS since September. So far, she has helped save 10 kittens and five dogs through the foster program.
“Without [MUTTS], who knows what would have happened to those kittens and dogs,” Austin said. “There are loving arms just waiting for them [in Virginia].”
Transporting the animals to Virginia is an effective solution, Muldoon notes. Most pet owners in Virginia spay or neuter their animals, so shelters there have fewer puppies and kittens available for adoption.
“The adoption network up there is something we can’t imagine down here,” Muldoon said. “There are puppies and kittens that people don’t want down here, and there are people
[in Virginia] waiting to spoil them rotten.”
Though MUTTS is still a fledgling organization, support from the community has been astounding. Hometown Storage and Cannon Motors have helped with the transport vans. On a recent transport day, Great American Cookies donated dog-bone-shaped cookies for volunteers.
Angie Sicurezza, co-owner of Grit restaurant, and her husband, Nick Reppond, were one of the first MUTTS foster families. In November, the couple hosted a fundraiser for the organization at Plein Air in Taylor.
The first Muttvember Fest raised more than $2,000 for Mississippi MUTTS.
“[The support] has been overwhelming,” Muldoon said. “It is just incredible to watch people who love animals donate their time and see animals benefit from it. That is what we wanted all along.”
Ginny Cooper McCarley of Invitation Oxford Magazine
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