Since Alley Cat Allies’ start, we’ve been working extensively in Virginia to protect cats and motivate communities to adopt and evolve that mission. I’m proud and ecstatic every time I see a community not just tolerating, but enthusiastically embracing their community cats and Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). Over the weekend of November 5, I was able to personally witness that passion for cats as I traveled with my friend and fellow animal advocate Kim Stallwood from Norfolk, Virginia to Chincoteague Island to meet with some groups doing amazing work in the areas.

My first stop was in Norfolk, where I was invited to speak for the Hampton Roads Community Cat Caretakers group at the Norfolk SPCA.  The group networks and advocates for TNR and community cats in the Norfolk area, and their dedication to the work they do showed as they engaged with my presentation. I presented to an audience of nearly 40 members about Alley Cat Allies’ 25 years of advocacy,  how we spearheaded the nationwide TNR and cat protection movement, and the everyday things anyone can do to help cats.

Earlier in the day, Kim and I met with Rob Blizard, the Executive Director of the Norfolk SPCA, and toured around their facility. They have been doing great work implementing humane policies for cats, and we were impressed by what we saw.

We left Norfolk and drove up to Chincoteague Island to meet with the hardworking members of Caring Hands Animal Support and Education (CHASE), a non-profit organization dedicated to the welfare of animals in Northern Virginia. Alley Cat Allies has supported CHASE with grants in the past, and we contributed microchips from Found Animals to a huge TNR initiative CHASE conducted in Chincoteague from Thursday, November 5 through Sunday, November 8.

Kim and I arrived in the midst of that TNR clinic to get an in-person look at CHASE’s crucial work. CHASE volunteers had gone out trapping and, including the many cats brought in by members of the community, spayed or neutered 189 cats in a free two day spay-a-thon. The whole operation moved like a well-oiled machine. CHASE president Jeffery Newman, DVM, led a team of four veterinarians and assistants, along with around 20 volunteers, through a process of screening, surgery, and recovery for each cat.

As impressive as the process was, nothing struck me more than the sense of community, cooperation, and dedication that filled the school gymnasium that housed the clinic. Like many groups committed to TNR and animal welfare, CHASE does so much with so little resources. Every volunteer donated their time and care, and worked hard together to create a positive future for every cat who passed through. And their effort does not go unnoticed–the community loves and rallies in support of CHASE and the cats they help.

CHASE’s close relationship with communities has led to a wonderful shared passion for community cats. Locals and local businesses often donate supplies and food, and brought in most of the cats who underwent surgery during the clinic. These locals truly care for the cats and want them to be part of their lives. Everyone who brought in a cat enthusiastically promised to return for them, and those promises were not broken.  It was an inspiring example of how community cats, and TNR, can bring a community together.

I look forward to seeing great work from CHASE and the Norfolk SPCA in the future. You can read Kim Stallwood’s take on this weekend of helping cats at his blog, and watch the Alley Cat Allies news page for more updates on how animal welfare groups and communities are working to save cats’ lives.