Last weekend, Alley Cat Allies transformed a hotel in the Washington, D.C., area into a cat lover’s paradise. No, we didn’t fill the hotel with actual cats. But our National Conference, Architects of Change for Cats, did bring together more than two dozen speakers, who are leading experts in the movement to protect cats, and more than 350 attendees from 37 states — even two from other countries.
We convened our national conference because, 23 years after Alley Cat Allies was founded, the demand for information and resources to help people protect the lives of cats is stronger than ever before. And the turnout, enthusiasm and amazing success stories shared at our conference provided further proof that we’ve reached a tipping point in the movement to create safe communities for cats.
See exclusive photos of the architects designs for feral cat housing.
During the three-day conference, animal control officers, shelter leaders, veterinarians and cat advocates shared their major successes in abolishing the failed catch-and-kill approach to feral cats and embracing Trap-Neuter-Return or TNR, a program in which outdoor cats are humanely trapped, sterilized and vaccinated for rabies at a local veterinary clinic, and returned to their outdoor homes.
Attendees learned how to carry out TNR and encourage their local governments to adopt policies that help cats, as well as how to make a simple emergency kitten-saving kit in case they find orphaned kittens while trapping.
Speakers also inspired attendees with their TNR success stories. Shelter and animal control directors noted that TNR has stabilized and reduced the population of feral cats in their communities, dramatically lowered their animal shelters’ intake numbers and provided enormous cost savings to taxpayers because fewer healthy animals are entering shelters and being killed there.
Bonney Brown, president of Humane Network and previous executive director of the Nevada Humane Society, talked attendees through the steps she took to transform Nevada Humane Society and save the lives of countless animals. She covered everything from working with rescue groups and dropping programs that weren’t saving lives, to enticing the media with creative adoption events like “Furry Speed Dating.”
She also encouraged attendees to talk to public officials who are running for office about how they can help protect animals. The vast majority of Americans want animals to be treated humanely, so this is “really compelling for public officials who want to be elected again,” Brown pointed out.
Another leader in the TNR field, Lisa Tudor, Founder of IndyFeral in Indianpolis, assured attendees that anyone can carry out TNR: “We humanely trap in anything — even high heels and business suits. We don’t care — we are going to neuter that cat.”
The Architects of Change for Cats conference reaffirmed that TNR has officially moved into the mainstream — and that it continues to gain momentum. More than 330 local governments across the country have official policies endorsing TNR, and increasing numbers of animal pounds and shelters are experiencing the effectiveness of TNR.
Much more work needs to be done, but this conference showed that cats have many dedicated, resourceful advocates who will keep the momentum going until every community is safe for cats.
Check out our conference slideshow to see just a few of our conference highlights. >>