Lisa Tudor, founder and executive director of Feral Friend IndyFeral in Indianapolis, is proof that dedication and compassion for cats can transform a community. Some 18 years ago, she volunteered at FACE Low-Cost Animal Clinic and didn’t even know what a feral feline was. Today, she is the Indianapolis Animal Care Services’ official Community Cat Coordinator.
Lisa’s career began when she started volunteering in 1999, around the same time that she went out to feed a colony for the first time. She soon found that community cats and their unique circumstances resonated with her. And when she learned that her city’s laws were systematically killing these cats, she knew she had to take action. She started a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program in her neighborhood, but couldn’t find any information on feral cats to help her. Then she discovered Alley Cat Allies and, following our protocols, “survived” her first TNR experience. From that point on, Lisa was on a mission.
She founded IndyFeral—now a member of the Alley Cat Allies Feral Friends Network—to perform TNR for colonies around the city, educate communities, and kick-start a transformation in Indianapolis’ laws and perception of community cats. Lisa quickly discovered just how high a demand there was for these services, as IndyFeral soon found itself flooded with requests for help. Over its history, IndyFeral has spayed/neutered, eartipped, and returned thousands of community cats, advocated for change that saves cats’ lives, and created a network of citizen caregivers.
Lisa soon recognized that it wasn’t enough to just provide TNR. To truly protect cats, the laws had to change. She learned that local ordinances banned the feeding of outdoor cats and that taxpayer dollars were supporting a shelter policy in which the outcome for community cats was almost certainly death. Lisa pushed for amendments, and an ordinance was successfully changed in 2006 to allow for the pursuit of humane options for community cats—including TNR.
As the community and its laws changed, Indianapolis Animal Care Services took notice of the positive effects. IndyFeral and FACE would often take community cats from the shelter to spay and neuter and return them to their outdoor homes, but the shelter decided it wanted to get more involved with the process. After a 2016 ordinance officially allowed for Shelter-Neuter-Return programs, Indianapolis Animal Care Services asked Lisa to become their Community Cat Coordinator and advise them on ways to best help community cats.
“My ultimate goal was always to change the culture of the shelter, so it was exciting,” Lisa said.
Today, Lisa works full-time to “cat-ify” Indianapolis Animal Care Services, which she says was originally designed primarily for dogs. That meant encouraging staff to understand and respect cats’ unique needs and behavior, providing cats with spaces meant for them, and supporting the adoption of humane policies that protect all cats—companion and feral. With her guidance and the longtime support from IndyFeral, which merged with FACE in 2013 to become the FACE Community Cat Program, fewer community cats are being impounded and euthanasia rates have fallen significantly.
When asked what inspires her to do what she does, Lisa said: “It’s the right thing to do. And if it resonates and it’s meaningful, you just do it.”