This past Saturday I attended Alley Cat Allies’ Changing Communities for Cats Tour stop at Chicago. I had the pleasure of listening to Becky Robinson and several other key members of ACA speak about the state of feral cats and shelter cats in general. Much of the information I was already aware of, but some of it was unsettling none the less.
Becky Robinson talked about the huge progress we, the supporters of ACA and TNR in general, have made in the last decade. I wasn’t aware that ACA started in 1990. It is great to part of a movement that started when I was in kindergarten. I was six freaking years old when Robinson and other cat lovers were out there starting a movement. Which is amazing, and also slightly disheartening to me, because it is only the past five years or so that I have really seen TNR take off and gain acceptance with a number of policy makers. They talked about all the ways in which the people in the room, the supporters of ACA and those who are out there in the streets, allies and field daily working to trap and feed feral cats have made TNR mean so much more than just Trap-Neuter-Return. It has become a movement that values the life of cats even if they do live outdoors, even if they are not “perfect.”
Robinson shared stories of how ACA spent countless hours, days and months in meetings with the DC area animal control before they could even implement a pilot program. There were stories of people dedicated to TNR, working tirelessly to fix the cats in their neighborhood only to have the cats taken away by animal control and killed when a neighbor called animal control. The neighbors didn’t always ask for the cats to be taken away, or even for them to be destroyed, they simple didn’t want the cats on their property.
There were stories of animals who were destroyed by shelters simply because they got sick, had a slightly goopy eye or were displaying normal behavior of active young animals such as swatting and nipping. It was heart breaking. The ACA team shared these stories to demonstrate how there is a certain mindset in the world of shelters. A mindset where people “know” that a six week old puppy has to be put down because it nips, or a kitten who has lived all her life in a cage and starts swatting at legs is a dangerous, vicious animal and not just bored out of her mind. It is this same “knowledge” that has many shelter and animal control workers killing feral cats because a “quick, painless death” is better than a life of unknown suffering on the street.
The Changing Communities for Cats tour appears to be the start of their new campaign to help change the way shelters and animal control offices around the country think about and manage cats in their communities and facilities. I got the impression they were using this tour to see what those of us who are out in the streets rescuing cats had to say about things in our communities and how ACA could help us.
I am excited about their Common Sense for Cats campaign, but I am a little overwhelmed by it too. To think that ACA started in 1990 and are still fighting the good fight to promote TNR kinda bums me out. That over twenty years later we still have to defend TNR is just astonishing. It goes hand in hand with changing the way shelters and animal control organizations think about animals though. So with that in mind, that this is a bit of a “can’t change one without the other” circle, part of me is hopeful that there will be a success and a change for cats (and all animals in the shelter system) once ACA joins their voice to that of so many other groups out there working to change the way animals are treated and thought of in shelters and animals control facilities across the country.
There is still so much work to be done. I am glad there are so many people willing to work at making a change for animals. In my already drained and exhausted state of mind though, it feels overwhelming and intimidating. I could feel myself becoming overwhelmed by the different statistics and all the work ahead of us. I can’t even catch all the cats in my neighborhood, how are we going to change the institution!? But I realized, I am not doing this by myself, I am one of many people across the country who will be joining this movement. It won’t happen over night, it will take time, and ACA is aware of that. There was so much positive energy in the room though, I am encouraged that with the support of so many dedicated people we can make a difference for cats all across the country.
If you want to see what issues Common Sense for Cats looks to address you should visit their website, commonsenseforcats.com. Then, take the pledge to work for common sense for cats! I took the pledge. And long before that, I started this blog, which I hoped to use to educate people about feral cats and TNR. I am excited to see the changes that are coming as the campaign gains momentum!