This month marks the 30th anniversary for Alley Cat Allies! Over three decades, with you by our side, we have been leading the charge in the global movement to protect cats and kittens.
This milestone comes during a moment when that leadership is needed more than ever. Our world is facing the COVID-19 crisis that will define a generation, and cats face danger on many fronts. Yet together, we are making a lifesaving difference for cats and kittens right now, just as we have for 30 years.
We have been here many times before, rising to the occasion through even the greatest challenges. We were on the front lines in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, California wildfires, plus countless floods and tornadoes. We know what it takes to build a new path forward in the face of difficult obstacles—unwavering compassion, a whole lot of elbow grease, and a strong belief in the intrinsic value of all cats’ lives.
After all, 30 years ago, our first steps involved shaking up a century-old animal control and shelter system that was committed to the systematic killing of cats. In the process, we created a humane, lifesaving blueprint that is saving cats and kittens to this day.
Growing from Grassroots
Alley Cat Allies didn’t start the cat advocacy and protection movement entirely from scratch. Though we came from very humble beginnings—nonlethal approaches to cats like Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) were radical, unpopular ideas 30 years ago—we were not alone in wanting something better for our feline family and community members.
When our president and founder Becky Robinson first took a fateful shortcut through an alleyway in 1990 Washington, D.C., she discovered a family of cats living and coexisting with residents. She committed herself to improving their lives and became their voice. She empowered cat caregivers to speak out and step up for them, too.
Becky quickly learned that in this community, and many others, individuals and grassroots cat nonprofit organizations had long been working on behalf of cats but faced strong resistance. Some even had to operate “underground” to make progress.
Meanwhile, the feral and community cats who made their homes outdoors continued to be rounded up by animal control and killed in shelters by the millions each year.
In short: There was the will, but not the way. So after Becky worked with the cat caregivers of those Washington, D.C., alleyway cats to have them spayed and neutered, vaccinated, eartipped, and returned, word quickly spread about this “radical” TNR program. She found herself deluged with requests for help.
Others in the community and beyond recognized the exciting potential in what Becky had just done. They wanted to follow her lead.
Paving the Way
Becky realized she had an opportunity to drive a sea change that would protect feral and community cats and end unacceptable laws and policies that threatened their lives every day. She created Alley Cat Allies and hit the pavement to unite grassroots advocates and inspire more people to raise their voices for cats.
She met with decision makers, spoke out for cats in front of even the most skeptical audiences, stuffed letters in envelopes, recruited veterinarians, launched the first community cat clinic in the country, and pulled together the beginnings of our Feral Friends Network®.
By 2000, Alley Cat Allies had made tremendous progress in changing ordinances that gave animal control the green light to round up and kill cats, and to punish their caregivers simply for caring. We also launched TNR and other humane standards into the mainstream. One of the most inspiring examples of that success is our Boardwalk Cats Project®, which turned 20 this year!
Fast forward to today. Alley Cat Allies continues to accomplish so much with you and more than half a million supporters. We are saving cats’ lives through initiatives including TNR, high-quality high-volume spay and neuter, microchipping, declawing ban legislation, and so much more. We are leading by example and encouraging decision makers, animal shelter staff, animal control officers, veterinarians, and others to shift their thinking—and their laws—to protect cats’ rightful place in our communities.
New Paths in Year 30
In this era of the COVID-19 crisis, our work is taking on many exciting new forms. It’s only fitting, considering our legacy of innovation, that we’re leading our movement through unprecedented changes in our milestone 30th year.
Amid this pandemic, people are concerned not just about themselves but the animals they care for, too. Alley Cat Allies is stepping up with much-needed guidance through our COVID-19 Response Hub at alleycat.org/Coronavirus.
We’re also sharing our expertise through leading news outlets. Becky was featured in The New York Times, “My Pet World,” and other outlets with advice about caring for cats and kittens during COVID-19. Newspapers, radio, and television stations covered Alley Cat Allies’ COVID-19 emergency grants to animal organizations throughout the country.
Our Keeping Families Together™ campaign is a groundbreaking model for providing animal food, care, and supplies through local organizations and community food banks. With this initiative, we’re giving families a helping hand (with no strings attached) in keeping their cats—who are family, too—in their homes as so many face financial struggles. These resources are also helping caregivers continue to care for community cats.
Though it sometimes may feel like it, none of us are in this alone. Alley Cat Allies is making sure that is true for cats and those who work to help them. We launched a Feline Forward task force to provide targeted support to animal organizations that need help getting back on track after the many setbacks of the pandemic.
Looking to the Future
Every mind we’ve changed and every cat’s life we’ve saved over these past 30 years was only possible because compassionate people like you took a stand with us. Our goal is to provide you and all advocates, budding and veteran, with the tools and knowledge you need to take effective action for cats in your neighborhoods, cities, and towns. Even through the most difficult of circumstances like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because the reality is people overwhelmingly care about cats. In a Harris Interactive poll conducted in 2017, 84% of Americans said they prefer that their community use tax dollars to adopt sterilization as its cat control policy instead of bringing cats found outdoors into shelters to be killed. That has not changed because of COVID-19. In fact, from all we’ve seen, the drive to defend cats’ lives has grown stronger.
That’s why Alley Cat Allies will stay in action until the day when all communities have laws and policies that reflect the humane values of their people. We hope you will continue to join us in our mission as we celebrate our 30th anniversary and launch into the next generation of cat protection.
From all of us at Alley Cat Allies, thank you for everything you do for the cats.