Episode 12 – Tina Hoskins

Tina Hoskins is the Director of TNR operations for the rescue organization Dallas Pets Alive, located in Dallas, Texas. Even though she is new to animal rescue, Tina has had amazing results with her TNR efforts on the Katy Trail which is an abandoned railroad track that had once divided the downtown Dallas core.  The Katy trail is now a popular, active path that runs through the Uptown and Oak Lawn areas of Dallas, Texas, following the path of the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad and has long been a home to several growing community cat colonies. Tina has spearheaded the TNR efforts along the trail and has made a significant impact on the lives of the resident community cats. Listen to her experiences since she got started and what TNR involves. To learn more about Tina and Dallas Pets Alive you can visit their website, http://dallaspetsalive.org/ or you can find them on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/DallasPetsAlive/.

Check out this episode!“Welcome to the Professionals and Animal Rescue podcast, where goal is to introduce you two amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved with animal rescue. This’ll Podcast is probably sponsored by do bert dot com. Do Bert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only site that automates rescue really transport. Now on with our show today, we’re speaking Latino. Hoskins. Tina is the director of tea and our operations for the rescue organization Dallas Pets Alive, located in Dallas, Texas. Despite being relatively new to animal rescue, Tina’s had amazing results with her teen. Our efforts on the Katy Trail, which is an abandoned railroad track that it once divided the downtown Dallas core. The Katy Trail is now a popular jogging, walking, inline skating and bicycling path. The rents are the Uptown and Ope Guan areas of Dallas, Texas, following the path of the old Missouri Kansas Texas Railroad, and it’s long been home to several growing community cat colonies. Tina has spearheaded the tanner efforts along the trail and has made a significant impact on the lives of the resident community cats. Hey, Tina, welcome to the program I Chris, so tell us a little bit about you. So I am of the trap neuter return director for Dallas That’s alive. A rescue group here in Dallas, Texas, and I somehow stumbled upon feral cats three years ago, though three years ago I was running on the Katy Trail, a outdoor running trail here in Dallas, and I’m walking with my girlfriend and I saw a cat run across the trail, and I immediately, of course, being an animal lover. I stopped and I went no, that cat’s lost and there was a woman sort of walking next to us and she said, Oh, honey, there are hundreds of them and I said, no, that that can’t be true And she said, No, really, there are hundreds of them and and I said, That’s bizarre. So I sort of shrugged off, and I you know, we walked home, I got some capital taking back, and sure enough, she was right. So I came back to that same area, and that one cat came out of the bush and so did nine of its friends, and I was completely and totally, utterly amazed that there were this family of cats to which, by the way, were massively pregnant. That just hung out and they were just there like living, and people were running by and cyclists and and I sort of I sort of said to myself, How can this be right? Like they must be lost? And so I ended up picking up the phone. I called my pet sitter, and my pet sitter said, You have no idea what you just stumbled upon and he already knew he knew what was going on in the community. He knew what it would take. And I said, Well, what do I d’oh? What do I call the police? Do I Do you like, What do I do? And he said, Trap them And I said, What do you mean trap them? And so that’s it. Then it started. I, ah, passer by went home and got a big dog crate and I took this. I still the photo to on my wall. I took this massively pregnant Siamese cat and you know, she was starving and I picked her by the scruff and I put her into a crate and I closed the door. It was it was, like 92 degrees outside. It was so hot. And I met my pet sitter. And I said, What do I do with her? And he goes, I’m gonna take her home. We’re gonna let her give birth. We’re gonna We’re gonna then fix her so she can have any more babies, and then we’ll put her back. And I said Okay. What? But what we do about the other nine? He said you got them. You knew that when you returned them and I went, Oh, thing This is a thing. It’s not is a thing, but, you know, being from up north, we don’t generally have this problem. So when I was a kid, we found a strike at the bus stop. We found a little baby kitten. Um, he was clearly injured. The doctor thinks he was thrown from a car window, but we didn’t have dozens and dozens of cats running around our neighborhood. Or, you know, we don’t go to the grocery store and in the side of the alley. Um, there weren’t like a family of cats living there, and yes. Okay. There are stray cats. They’re stray cats everywhere. But we didn’t have the massive overpopulation like we do in Dallas. And so this whole thing is new for me. When my pet sitter said to me, they’re feral, I literally went to him. What’s a Pharaoh cat? And he said they live in the like He looked at me like, How do you not know? And I said, I don’t know. You know, I just I don’t And he said you probably lived, Lived a very sheltered life when you were a kid. I said Not, actually, no parents were working class. Like, you know, I went to public school like, you know, I’m just like everyone else. And and he said, Well, where did you where did you know? Where did you move from? A nice to Connecticut. He said, Ah, that’s why So in combination with the weather down here, how hot it is and just the general. I guess the general public isn’t educated about Mu Terance Bay like we are north. We don’t have the same laws. We don’t have the same just growing up in the same the same expectations. Um, we’re not taught this as I guess we were taught it up north, but down here. It’s less common, probably because of the farming community and just how things work here. You have large farms and animals just roam. So I was stunned and literally, I said, I just feel back. One. Bush. What happens if I start to go peel back other bushes? He says, Using your problem. You’ve stumbled upon one of the largest colonies in Dallas, and sure enough, I every day I went out with food. I started calling here, Kitty, kitty. Here, kitty, kitty. I would put food every couple of feet, and sure enough, the one cat turned into nine that I found, and nine turned into 2020 turn into 40 and 40 turned into almost 90 cats. So how did it go over what period of time did you find these 90 cats? I think I think, you know, I started hitting the pavement like every day for the first few months. I initially I initially just started with the nine and and I was operating under the radar because because when I did pick up that first Siamese cat, you know, I did dig it. The people who are lovely, they ran home to their home they didn’t know me. They gave me that great fine. But also that of people who are running by and going ill. Rose. You know, that’s dirty. And so I kind of knew instinctively that, like what I was doing wasn’t really accepted by everyone, at least. And so I started with the nine, and I just I started conditioning them, naturally unknown, trying to uncover and try and get them on a schedule. But then I would say, over the period of 33 months, I started uncovering more and more and more, and it wasn’t until I was Actually, it was over the period of six months that I started over the period of six months, I really uncovered the full you problem, I should say. But at the six month mark, Philip and I have gone out of the country, and I got an email from one of those patrons because I have to remember I was on the trail every day for six months. I fed those cats every day. Those nine cats I had every day for six months, and when I went out of town, I hired someone to feed because I knew that I didn’t want. I didn’t want to lose momentum. So over that six months I had, I had I literally taken a crate, put them in, taking a great with them in, and I took them to my vet and I paid the 300 something dollars. I had no idea what grants were a no idea what publicly funded programs were. And so then my pet sitter gave me a trap, and then he taught me how to trap. And I borrow more traps. You know, I put a deposit down, I borrow more traps. So when the six month mark came around, that’s when I started to create enough like enough feathers were ruffled that people started to call the trail and say, Who is this woman? What is she doing? And so But that same time, when I was out of the country, the news headed really had done a really negative segment, heating the cats as vermin and is dirty. So I got a new email from one of the ladies, the elderly ladies who walks trail every day and she saw me the same time in Chile, said Hyah me. And she said something doing on? There are signs all over the trail that they don’t be the catchall. Get fine. And she said I want to make sure they’re okay. You know? What have you done? I said, Well, I’m out of town. Let me come back. Meanwhile, I was gone. My pet sitter, who I’d hired to feed these cats, um, started doing some digging. And sure enough, she uncovered people who were doing things like me. He wore feeding who are trying to trap. And so I then approached the key trail. And I said, Listen, I can fix this. The idea is not to threaten, and and it’s a no feeding. No, you can’t cats, Averman. The idea is to like bridge the gap between the haters on the lovers. And so that was really that was really the I’m either gonna jump all in moment before I’m gonna just be an individual contributor fighting against the uphill battle. And so I I started. I mean, it was it was a moment of panic for me. Really? Because I said there’s so much to do, like use your mind starts snowballing with Well, what about other people? What about other cats that there’s this many here. There could be dozens more down the street and you go. But I’m just one person. So I said, Okay, take a step back. I’m gonna just just gonna start this little area and then I’ll grow and I’ll expand. And meanwhile, the trail people had been incredibly supportive. And they said, If you believe this is the way we will, we will work with you to support you. I immediately saw Yeah. So if without their support, I wouldn’t be able to do what I have done. I wouldn’t have been able to get done as much as I did on the trail because they were the authorities. So what was I going to do if they didn’t support me? Trapping the dark of night? Even then, which is, by the way, something we d’oh Even then you are fighting a force that is so much stronger than you. You really need to. So I saw immediately so immediately what? Having a calm, rational approach and trying to mediate it. Because, you know, even though most people were defensive, if I stopped and I listened to their complaints, if I If I respectfully listen to what they had to say, and then I and then I respectfully responded to them with what the little study I’ve been doing on these nine cats. Maybe I could just at least get them to give me a break. You know, just this once. If they could just give me a break this one day, I could work around that. So anyways, this is a very long story, but But this it was It was that moment when I approached the Katy Trail and I said, I can fix I mean, I could help fix this. I can try and fix this. And they had said other people have tried but for you and you know, there’s just not that enough momentum. They they said, Listen, we don’t want to harm the cats, but we also don’t want to encourage them to keep procreating. And I said, Well, I understand that feeding them does that if you don’t match feeding with trapping you the problem exactly. You know it grows with the problem. So I said, if you let me feed, what if I promise to trap aggressively and they said you can feed, but we have a problem with feeding, too. And I swore the problems and they said, There’s food all over the trail. It’s horrific piles of food every two feet. So when the joggers air jogging and if they have a dog, the dog’s jerking them off to the side. And and then also to like, you know, each is it disrupts the flow and many of the catch winning across the trail. The bikers and the bikers were swerving, and, uh, and they said, it’s dangerous and I said, Fix it, we’ll fix it, We’ll move the feeding stations. Um, which, by the way, I didn’t know what they were when I came up with that term, like on the spot, like it was on there like, What are these? Asians are like Well, yeah. So the other biggest complaint waas was litter. So there were like in many neighborhoods, very concerned citizens who care about the animals and they, you know, thank you know, do a good thing. They be their leftover chicken from the restaurant. They would believe a can of cat food and that can of cat food stayed for days and days and days. So I think I have photos of this too, which is obviously is irrelevant because this is podcast. But, um well, don’t like hundreds of plastic containers down a hill. And I said, Okay, we’re gonna fix this letter’s a complaint, will litter. So I bought one of those, like, you know, poker tools. I got myself a garbage bag, and every day I went out and did research. I thinkthe piece trash or a baccala trash. And so soon enough, I started to gain respect from the people who thought I was a trash collector, literally, literally. So, like, people who didn’t know what I was doing with the cat were like thanking me for my service. And I thought, if they think I’m picking up trash because I’m picking up trash and I want to pick up trash because it’s trash, But really, in this moment, I’m picking up trash to help the cats. So why can’t I just gain their support for bowls? And I stopped saying to people, Thank you, but I’m feeding the cats. And I said, I said, You’re welcome. And it was amazing, like the positive infected through that that had a snowball. And so the people would write into the trail and say, We saw the lady picking up trash. Thank you so much. You know, we wanna contribute to be a member of the trail. Whatever it was had a positive effect. And so the trail then thanked me for picking up the trash, and it sort of it sort of create this mutual relationship where they became my ally, you know? And so when there was a complaint that came in, they sort of bought me that extra time. You know, they stood up for me. They said, Listen, she’s doing a good thing. She’s only improving the trail and in this partnership really grew and it solidified. And now we’re to the point where when someone complains about the cats on the trail, you know, it’s forwarded to me and they trust me enough to handle it. So in a way, I know it sounds really. It sounds like I have a huge ego, but in a way I created this position for myself, where, by begging for someone’s trust and respect, um, and then following through and showing and showing them that it can work has enabled me to create a position for myself that never existed before. And so it was. It was that it was that position that was attractive to Dallas. That’s a lot. When they approached me to start the cat program for them, they said the first thing they said was we’ve heard what you’ve done on the Katy Trail. That’s great. And I said, You mean And they said, We’ve heard what you’ve done And I said And so just just to give you a frame of reference, I found my first cat, I think, in Marsh four years ago. And then it was in August 4 years ago that the negative news piece ran about cats. And so I start. I approached Katy Trail that August, September, and from that August September, we I aggressively trapped, probably every weekend, Um, until June and we try and not that’s how we got most the project done. We did probably 90% of the trapping then, and now you know, over the four years I still have, you know, 10 loose cats running around. We’ve had kittens one letter, but instead of nine letters of Qin’s, we have one letter kids, and so the colonies stabilized so but the amount of time and emotional energy that took is immense. Would I go back and do it all over again? Probably not. I would I would demand some. You, I’d recruit, recruit my pay my mom to come down with me. I would not do it myself again. Um, I know better now, but it was worth every emotional night in every emotional day and every every sweaty trip, you know, to Crandall to hike out there It was worth every cry of every cat in my back. The vaccine, my car crying and all the moaning and groaning like it was totally worth it. Because not only are these pats healthier, they’re stable. We don’t have very many new cats coming in. I mean, it was It was It was It was the shining example of what all feral community should be like. And if you ask me, is it the perfect example? No, but it’s Dallas is perfect example because we have so much work to do here. So how was that of all? That’s a wonderful story tune. I mean, over the three years, though, now you’re with Dallas pets alive. You started out. You kind of stumbled into this. And now how is that evolved to your role with being the TNR director for Dallas pets alive? It was it Was it do or die? Moment. You either. You know, when when medical group with with credibility by jealous is life is known in Dallas. I mean, they’re not. They’re not just a small little moment. Pop rescue group. They had structure. When they approached me, they had I’m three years of solid rescue group service behind them where they were a powerhouse in rescuing dogs from Dallas. Animal Service is so it was. Can I do this? I mean, I have milled background. I have no experience experience. I have it what I taught myself. But you know, like they say, fake it till you make it. I had enough people around me, enough mentors and enough support for what I was doing that everyone said to me, If you don’t do this, there’s a chance that all the work you’ve done could go to waste. And I said, No, I will not let that happen. Um, and with the success of trapping, you know, 90% of the trail cats you need to keep the momentum going. And so I found myself educating people on the trail. And I thought, If I spend 1/2 an hour talking to just one person on the truck, actually, then they walk away going. Wow, that’s fascinating. I had no idea. Why can’t I speed up that process and get a group to help me do that on a larger scale? And then also, I thought to myself, You know, when I weighed the pros and cons pro obviously, like I could get people to help trap in other communities another another barrel cat communities pro. I could have a team of people to help me spread the word. You know, like all the pros, there were really no calms. The cons was I got to start from scratch. I don’t know that many people, you know? I don’t know. I don’t know who wants to go outside and 110 degree weather and hunt for cats, you know, But really, I think to answer your question, um, what it did is, you know, we started small. I said, listen, I said, I can’t promise you that this is gonna work, but I know It’s worked for what I have done. And if it’s if it’s work on this large of a scale in this in this trail in Dallas, why can’t it work for other communities? Are other other feral cat committees other neighborhoods in Dallas? And I basically said I found a successful model that will that will work if if all the pieces lined up, you know, you have to understand that it wasn’t just me. People say, Oh, you’ve done an amazing thing. It’s not just me, it is. It’s the vet who gave me free neuter space for any Farrell. Captain Katie Troll. No, that’s a $300 service that you and I were pet would pay a Azan average customer for free. I could travel to five cats a week, and I’d come in. I didn’t have to make the drive to Crandall, which was 45 minutes, so it dramatically reduced. It sped up. I should. It sped up the process for me. So there’s that. Then there is the people who help me trap who were out there, you know, from 8 to 11 at night, helping me trap and transport. You know, it was It was my very understanding husband who supported who supported this passion of mine. You know, it was it was the trail who stood behind me and said she’s allowed to do what she’s doing. Don’t bother her. You know, She she’s cleared by us. It was the city who gave me, you know, the benefit of the doubt and didn’t find me, you know, whatever. It was so many people. If those things don’t line up you, not only is is your ability to to successfully t and r hindered, but you have that much more of a hurdle decline. And so, you know, I have to say, like, it wasn’t hard convincing people It wasn’t hard because people before me had sort of laid the groundwork. And, you know, big groups like alley cat allies. I think that they laid the groundwork nationally. You know, I went I went to a seminar, and they have it all under. They have pamphlets. And my eyes were like, Oh, my God. Because all this stuff I was thinking in my head I had to do is already done for me. Um, so when I when I went to Dallas, that’s alive. I said, Listen, I can’t promise you that this is gonna work. All I can tell you is that it worked for the 90 something cats on the trail and with the right group of people and the right support and the right backing, it can work for others and they drink the water. I mean, you know, like I always say, Like, that’s what I do on a daily basis. I get people to join like it, get him to drink our water because it works. And so now with Dallas that lives backing, I’m that much more legitimate, if that makes sense, this so for somebody that’s listening to this that is new to Tina, how do you shorten the learning curve for them? What would you recommend that they do to get started successfully? I would recommend that people contact us, you know, and and they, you know, we need to shorten. And even more so, like the greatest I was like training or service that was providing where you could or we hosted classes. You amass group training, some something of some sort to just to just do it in bulk. But have a conversation with me. Do your research online. I mean, you Google feral cats and Alec at allies has entire tool book. You know, I haven’t actually sitting right in front of me. Pamphlets literally of just pamphlet after Pamela after pamphlet of just how to live with cats. Your neighborhood. How to trap 101 It’s very straightforward. And now, you know, because Tina is catching on in cities around the country, you can most likely you can call your local animal shelter and they will be able to explain. They’ll build alone you. Traffic will explain to you how to do it. It’s not gonna be as refined. The process is ours because I’ve done a lot of trial and error, and our our systems specifically is quite were quality over quantity right now. And we have that luxury to do that on the smaller scale for the average person going. How do how do I start trapping? Have a conversation with me or with another teen, our volunteer. But the easiest way to do is to literally go online and go to you too. I’m not even kidding you to 10 minute video and you’re done. That’s great. That’s great advice. And it does sound like that. There’s lots of other lots of other things out there that people can tap into. So when you when you think back on this No, Tina, was there a particular person or a particular group that really inspired you? Um, you know, initially, initially, I didn’t know about Alec allies until after they’re all friends. Girlfriends, community cat, alliance waas. One of the contacts that I was I was given through this smaller people when I initially got started. And there was a woman specifically named Pam who runs the TNR part of barrel friends. Um and she believed in what I was doing. She looked at me and she said, You are the new energy. You you will I will support you whatever you want to do because you’re taking it and you’re running with it. So I would say feral friends is really there are the people who didn’t know me from, you know, James Smith next door, and they believed in everything. They believed in my passion. They believed in my energy. They they encouraged me to do to keep going and he doing what I’m doing on that I think was really the boost I needed because, like I said, had I met has ah have been met with five or six hurdles? As a person who had no experience, I don’t think not any of this would have happened. I think I would have said to myself, like many people do, it’s easier to just do it on my own, do it all alone and I’m one person I’ll contribute. What an interview. But it’s just easier that way. But because I had the support of feral friends of the Katy Trail off of the anonymous vet who donated the surfaces of my husband, I was I was empowered to keep going, and that is really what I think. What is driven Meet T To be where I am today is that you know, I I see. But like you said, the positive Kirby just it just it just keeps getting better. That’s really inspiring such a great story. Is there anything else you want to share with our listeners before we wrap it up? I would say you know, this is gonna sound very educational, but I would say if you see a cat on the street. There’s this saying that we that into you know that we have this saying that we haven’t t and R is where there’s one there, some so you when you see one, it’s not just the one fluffy, adorable kitten. The chances of being the one fluffy, adorable kitten are like Wait 0001 There’s always more, and it’s it’s pulling back the layers of that onion to get to that, you know, to get to the core issue that we need people to sort of to embrace and be a part of the solution. Well, thank you, Tune, and we appreciate you coming on and sharing your story with us. Thank you. 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