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Organizing to effect change at the community level is one of the best ways you can help improve cats’ lives, by pushing to end the unnecessary killing in shelters and provide humane care. There is great legal, political, and moral strength in our standing together to say that killing cats must stop.  You can organize your community for strategic change for cats.

1) The Feral Cat Movement – An Overview

Then and Now
Twenty years ago, trapping the cats in your back alley to get them spayed or neutered and vaccinated was an eccentric, even suspect, activity that few were able or even knew how to undertake and most were reluctant to even talk about. Finding a veterinary clinic willing and competent to treat feral cats was next to impossible and the costs, borne by caregivers alone, were staggering. In those early days, Trap-Neuter-Return was an expensive, solitary endeavor.

Early caregivers found each other and started working together. Small groups grew, sometimes becoming 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations with structure and funding. Organizing as a group provided shared resources, a safety net for both the cats and caregivers, and a protected legal identity. Learn more about starting your own organization

Slowly at first, but with growing momentum, members of the veterinary profession began recognizing that feral cats were an underserved population; they understood the urgent need to stop their endless reproduction and improve their lives. Volunteers organized feral cat spay days and full-time, subsidized clinics in an outpouring of community service that continues today.

Humans have a compassionate nature and it was inevitable that caregivers would respond to help outdoor cats—a legacy that continues today.

Today, much has changed, but not nearly enough.

We organized in the past to make Trap-Neuter-Return possible. Today, we organize to make Trap-Neuter-Return the norm and to stop the killing of cats in  animal shelters across the country.

Building the Movement – Understanding the Issues
There are two sources of power in the political process: money and people. Since we will never be able to match the financial resources of our opponents, cat advocates must come together and garner power through recruiting, training, and mobilizing citizens to say “no” to killing cats and “yes” to improving their lives.

Grassroots organizing is an American tradition that lives on today in communities across the country. It’s in hometown newspapers all the time—residents working together to improve their neighborhood or draw attention to a worthy cause. And it works for cats too: it’s the most effective approach you can use to help improve the lives of cats and stop the killing in your local shelters.

An overwhelming majority of U.S. animal control pounds and shelters continue to implement and enforce antiquated laws and species-inappropriate policies that result in the killing of over 70% of all cats who enter facilities. Virtually every feral cat who enters a shelter is killed there.

Ill-conceived ordinances like feeding bans and limit laws punish the very people who, at their own expense, are working to improve conditions for both cats and community. Even while feral cat groups have organized and grown, many individual caregivers have been harassed and cited for their community service. Some have even dropped from view to care for the cats in secret for safety’s sake. These ordinances ignore the true problem—the lack of subsidized spay and neuter and Trap-Neuter-Return programs—and create a subculture of people who hide in the shadows to care for feral cats. Learn more about understanding your local ordinances.

The good news is that you can help change these backward ordinances and lead the way to bring about change in your local shelters. Learn more about Feral Friendly Shelter Practices. Grassroots organizing can be done effectively with minimal resources. Email and the internet make it cheaper and easier than ever to reach out to others who want to help animals.

Everyone in this movement makes a valuable contribution to the honorable goal of ending the unnecessary killing in shelters and providing humane care. No matter what role you fill—whether you are hands-on with cats or not—you are part of the movement if you stand up and say “no” to the killing. You can spread the word and build the movement by getting your friends, family, and neighbors involved.

Changing community policies and ordinances toward animals will ultimately give cats far greater protection than any grassroots organization or individual can provide alone. There is great legal, political, and moral strength in our standing together to say that killing cats must stop. Our government agencies must reform their policies. We, as voters and taxpayers, demand this.

Next Step: Long-term planning.

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