In our “From the Field” series, we share reflections and field notes from our staff members who work hands-on, every day, to protect and improve the lives of cats.
If you’ve been following Alley Cat Allies’ efforts in Texas, you know that we’ve been working closely with Fort Bend County to save cats’ lives. After Fort Bend County passed an ordinance allowing Trap-Neuter-Return in June, Fort Bend County Animal Services immediately launched a pilot program in two cities: Needville and Richmond. I traveled there, first, in July to help modify policies and procedures that support the pilot TNR program and hosted initial training sessions for the animal control officers and shelter staff.
Shelter Director Rene Vasquez and Community Involvement Coordinator Barbara Vass have been the local voice for the TNR program and worked hard to ensure the ordinance was successfully passed. I also met with Mary desVignes-Kendrick, MD, director of the Fort Bend County Department of Health and Human Services, who oversees the shelter, and Kaye Reynolds, deputy director of the Fort Bend County Department of Health and Human Services. They have also been staunch supporters of the program and publicly promoted it right alongside the shelter staff and Alley Cat Allies.
In August, I traveled there with Brianna Lovell, Alley Cat Allies’ associate director of Community Engagement and Events, to help finalize policies and procedures for the county’s new pilot TNR program and educate the community about it. With the incredible support from county officials, shelter staff, and the public, the program is sure to be a success.
The Commissioner’s Court, the governing body of Fort Bend County, is also looking forward to the new TNR program. County Judge Robert Hebert was an important champion of the program. We also met with county commissioners Andy Meyers, James Patterson, and Vincent Morales, all of whom understood the value of TNR for cats and the community.
“With Fort Bend Commissioners Court approving the TNR pilot program … we are well on the way to reaching our goal of improving the save rate for animals in Fort Bend County,” says Commissioner Morales. “Our partnership [with] Alley Cat Allies … is sure to contribute to the success of the TNR program.”
Alley Cat Allies also hosted TNR training for county shelter volunteers. We conducted three workshops in the area, which Needville Mayor Ernie Stuart attended. His support was vital to launching the pilot program there.
We helped the Fort Bend County shelter formalize its written policies and protocols for the TNR program, and then trained animal control officers and kennel technicians in these new procedures. Alley Cat Allies also provided literature, humane cat deterrents like vinegar and used coffee grounds to deter community cats from going into areas where they may not be invited, and bungee cords to secure trash can lids to deter them from rummaging through the trash (although raccoons are typically the trash can invaders) , and other supplies for animal control officers to have in their trucks to address community cat concerns.
We also prepared the ACOs and shelter staff to answer questions from the public regarding community cats and the pilot TNR program. I was blown away by their enthusiasm and eagerness to participate.
“The support that we have received from Alley Cat Allies has been a game changer for us here at Fort Bend Animal Services,” Vasquez, the shelter director, says. “This is a program that I have been trying to put in place for several years because we know how important community cats are. The feedback that we have received from staff, volunteers, community members and county officials has been very positive due to [Alley Cat Allies’] presentations.”
Our last stop was in Richmond to present our final community TNR workshop. The county judge’s wife, Pat Hebert, stood up and praised the work of the shelter and the community in starting the TNR program. This endorsement was a great way to end the week.
I know this program will be successful because of the voices of support I heard throughout the week for the shelter and its efforts to increase its lifesaving work. And, as deputy director of Fort Bend County Department of Health and Human Services Reynolds, says, “Fort Bend County Animal Services is eager to improve the lives of community cats in our area in addition to assisting our residents in understanding and living in harmony with these cats. We thank Alley Cat Allies for its guidance and support. The on-the-ground staff, Alice and Brianna, provided expertise and community engagement with enthusiasm, sensitivity and a healthy dose of humor.”
As we were packing up each night after the presentations, folks were exchanging phone numbers and speaking with shelter staff and one another because they were excited and wanted to become involved. These are the kinds of community connections that our workshops facilitate and that make TNR programs and caring for community cats so successful.
Until next time,
Associate Director of Animal Shelter and Animal Control Engagement
Alley Cat Allies