To protect cats and create true change that saves their lives, Alley Cat Allies encourages people in power to listen to and work with compassionate community members. That, after all, is the real meaning of community.

This week, the small city of Buena Vista in Virginia took an extremely promising step toward ensuring the safety of a small family of community cats living in a local park. When their caregiver, dedicated Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) advocate, and founder of Furever Friends Lodge Mary H., reached out to us concerned about a plan to remove the cats from their outdoor homes, our Director of Programs Alice Burton attended the Buena Vista City Council meeting to speak in defense of the cats and Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).

Her voice made the difference—and the cats will stay right where they are!

Among a packed house of cat-supporting attendees, Alice and Mary spoke to the council about the successful TNR program already in place in the park. Through Mary’s efforts, the community cat population had gone from 178 cats to just 12 cats within 10 years. Through TNR, the cats were humanely trapped, spayed and neutered, and vaccinated.

Some cats were returned—eartipped—to their outdoor homes, but some of the cats were pets who were abandoned in the area. Those cats were placed into adoptive homes.

Alice’s presence allowed for important dialogue and on-the-spot humane education, which are critical elements toward the success of TNR.

“I spoke with the council about my experience as an animal control officer, let them know that TNR was already working wonders in the park, and offered to go to the park along with Mary and the mayor to make recommendations for improving the cats’ outdoor home,” said Alice. “They were completely open to the idea.”

The next morning, Alice, Mary, park employees, and Mayor William Fitzgerald headed to the colony site in the park. Upon walking along the trails of the park and arriving to the cats’ outdoor shelters, Mayor Fitzgerald agreed that the cats should stay in their outdoor homes rather than be removed—and even discussed potential improvements for their outdoor shelter.

Alley Cat Allies Director of Programs Alice Burton visiting the colony site at the park.

Additionally, Alice offered to work with the city on the right language for signage to inform park-goers that the cats are part of a managed colony, that the abandonment of pets is illegal, and whom they can contact with questions or for assistance.

“Buena Vista and the park are going to try to be good stewards for the colony and the TNR program here,” said Mayor Fitzgerald.

For the cats and the many human members of the community who care about them, this new support is the ideal outcome and a great relief.

“These cats may be feral, but they are not homeless. They have a beautiful 300-acre park to enjoy,” said Mary. “And because of the turn of events and acceptance by our council, their presence will be embraced for the future of this colony.”

TNR is working for Buena Vista just as it is for thousands of communities across the country and the globe. But without the right education and communication with their citizens, many cities mistakenly inhibit these lifesaving, effective programs. We are happy to report that Buena Vista is moving away from this dangerous cycle, and that the future for the park’s community cats looks bright.

Alley Cat Allies will continue to provide our expertise and support to the city, and we will always defend TNR and community cats whenever and wherever they are at risk.