Animal Rescue of the Week: Episode 45 – No Feline Left Behind

No Feline Left Behind is a non-profit organization improving the lives of stray, abandoned and feral felines by educating, advocating and direct hands-on care through TNR, fostering and adoption. They encourage everyone to aid in their daunting efforts of an unending task to curb feline overpopulation. “A Community Saving a Colony” is their slogan as colony caretakers are vital to the survival of many strays.


Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nofelineleftbehind/

“Welcome to the ARPA Animal Rescue of the Week podcast. Featuring outstanding organizations around the country that are helping animals and the people who rescue them. This podcast is proudly sponsored by Doobert.com.

Doobert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Let’s meet this week’s featured animal rescue.

 

No Feline Left Behind is a nonprofit organization founded in 2016 with the mindset of a community saving a colony. They set out to improve the lives of stray, abandoned and feral felines by educating, advocating and direct hands on care through TNR, fostering, and adoptions. The staff and fosters are on a mission to ensure every cat being countered is loved and protected forever.

 

Hi, Dennis, welcome to the show! Thank you. Glad to be here. Yes we’re so glad to have you. And you run no feline left behind along with your wife and your daughter. Is that right? That’s correct. Awesome. I’m really interested in learning about your organization. So can you tell me a little bit about it? And how you guys got started.

I think that’s a story that everybody might like is quite odd. Actually, I happen to walk outside of the garage one day and I saw four or five cats just kind of ambling up the street. Didn’t really think too much of it. They didn’t seem to be extremely fearful, but yet weren’t coming very close. And I step back into the garage and got a handful of dog food from our dogs and put out on the sidewalk right near the corner of the garage, backed off and I just watched them converge on it. So I got another handful. Just see what would happen, started, walk out with it. They backed away. I’ve put the food down, and once again they converged on it. I came inside, talk to Catherine about it, and we thought this was kind of weird. But, you know, cats have to be extremely hungry to eat dog food. So we tried to find out what was going on, what had been going on, what might be going on, and we really found that no one in our area did anything on behalf of cats, and that includes the city and county. In fact, they told us that “well, deal with them best as you can, and there are plenty of private organizations you can get a hold off.” Oh wow! It took us probably six weeks to find a group that would actually help us with anything and all that they were able to do as they told us. “Well, we can trap him, get him neutered and spayed and then bring him back”. And we thought, “That’s weird.” Well, the more we checked into it, the more we found out that the city and county of Denver actually has a policy that their preferred method of taking care of, as they call them, community cats is trap, neuter, and return because they’ve decided that that helps out with rodents. And that is a published policy of the city and county of Denver. Since it took us so long to find somebody to help us out, we decided, well, maybe we should get involved. And so we started our organization.  That’s amazing, because usually that story is definitely different than you know, your typical “Hey, we got a group of friends and we share the same passion”. So I find it interesting that your story for how you got started is, you can tell it’s very personal. That’s truly great to hear. It definitely stands out to me a little bit that the community that you’re in was just kind of more. “Yeah, we’re gonna trap, neuter and release. And that’s kind of how we do things”, especially in Colorado, because Colorado is usually a state that’s very big on animal advocates. So that’s very intriguing for me to hear. You kind of touched base a little bit about your community. So would you say that people dumping cats or lot of stray, and feral Cats are huge in your community and area. Its, gigantic. That’s the only word I can use for that. That one time, about two years ago, the city and county estimated that in the Denver metro area there are 250,000 community cats. Holy smokes! That is a huge number. It is!

What exactly do you guys do at your organization? Do you guys help with the TNR programs, or do you bring cats in? And I know that you guys said that you, your wife and your daughter kind of run the organization along with foster’s. So what exactly do you guys do to help make a difference for those feral cats? Well, we do what I like to call both methods of TNR. Generally everybody knows that TNR – trap, neuter, and return. But we also look at trap, neuter and re-home. We prefer what a lot of people would call the trap, neuter and adopt model of things, even though yes, it’s harder. And a lot of organizations would say, “Well, that’s not how you do it.” Well, if you’re trapping, neutering and returning the cats, you’re bringing them back out to the wild where they were and letting them cause, as some people put it, the problems they cause. If you have cats that are available to be adopted, they could be re-homed. You’re getting him off the streets and you’re giving them a better life. Now we realize, and a lot of the organizations that we’ve worked with sometimes besides, sometimes in opposition to, they like to say “it’ll never work. It’ll never work. If that cat’s caught and it’s older than four months old, it’s a lost cause.” No, we don’t believe that, and we have several cats that we have trapped and worked with and found homes for that were a lot older than four months old. We do an assessment upon trapping. Now, anytime a cat is in a trap, it’s going to be nervous. It’s going to be scared, but there’s a difference. If there’s a fear, it’s hissing and it’s just trying to back up and get away. That’s one thing. And as we like to put it, if it’s trying to attack us through the trap, that’s something different. You know, if it’s trying to attack us through the trap, that’s one that probably is going to go back outside. Otherwise we’re gonna be looking at it further. Now, we normally trap in the evenings because that’s usually, when it gets dark, able to come out better. They’re not afraid of everything and everybody, and we do the assessments after we remove them from the field, bring them back to our garage. We check them out a little bit, but then we give them the night and we re check them in the morning before we take them in. And that’s another thing that our organization does that might be different from other organizations. we don’t believe in leaving them in a trap for more than overnight. On rare occasions we’ll go longer only because, like weather has happened, so we can’t get them to the organization for the spays/neuters. But otherwise, no, there are some organizations we know they’ll leave a cat in a trap for a week. Oh, my goodness. And I can’t see that. There’s some places that they’ve told us about that. They take two traps. They take the one the cat is in. They somehow connected up to a second trap, so that has a little more room to move around. But that’s still, the state has put out some mandates and things about how big a kennel, for lack of a better term, has to be. And there’s no way that an organization can say yes, that’s appropriate. When they just wire to traps together and say, “OK, there we go. We’re gonna let him stay there for a while.” But what’s really weird is that when groups do that, often times the state will look the other way. There are some things they look the other way on. There’s some things, they get just really crazy about enforcing. It actually — they say it out here in Colorado. Wow, that’s hard to hear when you said that some organizations keep the cats in the trap for a week. That is kind of shocking and kind of awful to hear because, especially with stray cats, they’re used to having that free rein and to keep them kind of confined like that. It’s definitely hard on the ears. So it sounds to me and correct me if I’m wrong. When you guys trap the cats, you guys bring them to your home. Is that right? That’s correct. Okay, See, and this is why I was kind of pulled to your guys’ organization. Because just the fact that you guys are a family and you guys are now an organization and you’re working out of your own home. That really touches my heart because you guys truly are making a difference. And you’re not looking at animals as we need to get them in and out as fast as possible. You’re genuinely looking to give them a better life.

I know that you have mentioned that you do the TNR with your own spin on it and I’m kind of curious. I noticed that you guys also have a cat food assistance program. Is that run by you guys specifically, or do you guys have any partners that chime in on that? We oftentimes get donations from PetSmart during their national adoption weekends. Oftentimes they’ll take donations in and we’ll get the donations, and then we distribute what we’re not going to be using. We also have a partnership with NutriSource, the KLN brands. They sponsor organization. They provide us food that we use for our foster’s, as we call him the orphans. We have our own colony stall — that initial group we were talking about. It’s interesting story We actually caught 15 cats would help with that other organization. Nine or ten of them were female. Eight of those females were pregnant at the time that they were taken in. So, as I explained to one of our neighbors when they were giving me some grief, I guess is a good way to put it, over what we were doing, I said, “Well, let’s think about this for a minute. 15 cats, eight of them were females. If they averaged four kittens, per litter if we had actually let that happen. 32 and 15” and he goes, “Wait a minute, Wait a minute, Hold it. You’re talking 50” And I said, “Yeah”, right off the bat and he looked at me a little bit funny. And then I said, “And then if all of those kittens, let’s say half of them were females and they reproduced” He said, “Say no more.” And then when I explained that “yeah it could be up to three litters a year for every female”, his eyes kind of glazed over. And he shook his head actually, and went. “I’m not sure I could do that math” and I said, “Let’s look this way. It’s a lot.” Colorado is a very good place for animals. Yes, it is an extremely good place for dogs. Colorado loves dogs, but there are a lot of people in Colorado that they look at cats and think, well, cats are expendable. There are a group of Colorado residents that believe any animal is expendable when they get tired of them. Just let them go. Doesn’t matter. We found a lot of that. One of the things that we’ve had a big battle with is just explaining to people, “Look, you get a pet. That pet is it’s a family member. Its lifetime commitment. It’s not 3, 6, 7 months.” We had one, a doctor that actually put on the application that when the cat turned five years old, they were going to give it up, no matter what. One of the questions we have on our application is how long you intend to keep this animal, and they put down until it turns five. Obviously, that application was rejected. I’m shocked right now, and this is a type of information that I love for our listeners to kind of hone in on because, like you had mentioned, Colorado is a good place for dogs, obviously. But cats– it’s different. With that being said about Colorado. You guys are actually looking to be relocating your organization. Is that right? That’s correct. It’s in a way two fold. The biggest fold is that the cost of living in the Denver area is just so out of control that we can’t stand it anymore. So we’re looking to go somewhere where we can actually afford. Catherine, My wife and I were both on social security disability and we have a fixed income. That’s all there is to it. We’re not making anything off the organization, the organization is for the cats, and that’s it. The money that comes in is used for spaying, neutering, getting whatever food or supplies we need to get, maintaining the organization and maintaining the cats. We don’t get anything off of it.

That’s awesome to hear. How do you go about selecting the cats that you transport to you guys? The groups that were working with, especially the one in Louisiana, the lady down there is absolutely wonderful. She goes around to the shelters and she looks at their euthanasia lists, and it makes me so sad to hear of a two month old cat on a euthanasia list in Louisiana. To me, that’s absolutely insane. But what they say down there is nobody wants cats, so we get him into our shelter. We’ve gotta have room. So she goes around. She collects cats with the different organizations, has some fosters that she uses to work with so that the cats can get older, socialized some more, be prepared to be adoption-ready when they come and she works with. I think two or three other organizations here in the Denver area as well. But we get cats from them. The group we’re working with in Dallas is kind of the same thing. I think her organization, she has other folks that go out and find the cats and kittens and then bring them in. And then they prepare him and bring him up here.

You know, it’s great to hear that you guys are doing everything you can to make a difference. So, Dennis, can you share with me a little bit about what is the biggest challenge for your organization? I know that you had mentioned your personal reasons for relocating, but is there any specific challenges that you guys face as an organization in your area? Yes, The cost of spaying and neutering in Denver is outrageous. We have one organization that for a while was helping out the rescues and the shelters by offering free spay and neuter services, spay and neuter vaccines. But they had a grant from one of the big box pet store charity, and in that grant, they were expecting to do spay and neuter services for 10,000 community cats per year. I know for a fact, because I have the letter from the organization saying, “Well, we never reached that really 6,000” and all of a sudden they decided before their grant was up. “Well, we’re not gonna do anything for any rescues, any shelters anymore. We’re now gonna focus on owners bringing the cats in, and we’re going to do theirs for free.” The low cost ones here in the Denver area are around $60 for a neuter and $80 for a spay. There’s one organization where you can actually get things down to $10 per cat. If you jump through all the right hoops, however, they can only take up to about 15 cats a day, and they only do their service is three days a week. There were 143 shelters in Colorado and 163 rescues, so you have to fight for the space. You have to have appointments. It’s become extremely difficult. Like I said, one of things that we look at it is we’re not keeping him in a trap, and you don’t bring a trap cat in and put it into a kennel and take care of it for a long time and then try to get it back into a trap to take in. Because both of the organizations that we work with right now for the space and neuters, if the cat is in a trap, then it could be considered to be a feral. Have the reduced price and you get the services. If it’s not in a trap, well, then it must be an owned a cat or a cat that’s going to be adopted out, and then the low cost is out the window.

Do you guys have a specific debt or clinic that you guys take the cat that you take in to? We do, we only take them in if there’s a medical need. Once we have the cat in our possession, we usually do not take them into our vet for spay and neuter or vaccines, because with the nationwide group that are that is associated with, the costs are too high to be able to do it on a regular basis. Also, once again, it comes down to scheduling. There’s hardly anywhere that you can actually say. “Oh, hey, I caught these four cats and traps last night, and I need to get him fixed.” We have one organization that will work with us up to a point, like that. But everybody wants appointments to be set. And over this past summer, it was eight weeks in advance to get a new appointment. So did you keep those cats that long before getting– No, I won’t do that. If I have to go make appointments, I find out what I could get appointments, and then I schedule my trapping around the appointments and the problem with that is well, if you catch him. Great. If you don’t. Sorry. Oh, okay. So you basically just kind of scheduled spay and neuter appointments and then go out and trap them? You don’t actually keep them for that long? Nope.

So before you guys decided to relocate, how many fosters do you guys have that work with you? We’ve never had enough. But at one time, the most we had was five. I get. There’s never usually enough, right? So what do you guys hope the future will look like? Not just for relocating to a whole new state. Do you guys have, like, a bigger picture for your organization that you guys would be willing to share with me? We would like to see a lot more education going on, whether it’s our organization or us working with other organizations or other organizations, signing onto the ideas that we have, that there’s no easy solution. That’s number one. There is no easy solution. And I’ve seen news articles from other states that some people are saying, “Well, if you just quit feeding the cats”– No that doesn’t work, they’re not gonna leave that way. When the cats come into your backyard and they set up their shop, as I like to call it, Well, that’s it. The thing is, they’re not looking for food. They’re not looking for water. They’re looking for shelter. They’re looking for a safe place. It’s because it’s safe there. That’s the other thing that people don’t understand. You can’t just remove a colony. If a colony sets up, okay, there’s a colony. If you remove that colony, other cats are gonna come in because the cats that were there are going to leave scents they’re going to leave pheromones and things behind, and other cats are going to realize “Oh, there was a safe place there!”

It seems like you have a lot of knowledge in this area. Do you mind me asking how long you’ve kind of been in this field? Was it kind of before you guys decided to start the organization? Or did you just kind of pick up on this when those cats arrived outside your garage? We started learning things after the cats ended up–coming up towards the garage. You guys have learned so much about these cats. You have mentioned that you guys want more education. Would that be something that you guys think that you could put a program on for the community in Oregon? Well, I think we would start to branch out to do that. We’ve been doing some of that here in the Denver area this past spring. We actually did a series of programs with one of the suburb’s libraries. They contacted us and said, “Could you come out and talk about the cats to our kids?” We do these library programs and we said, “Well, yeah, sure, why not?” And we came out and we saw in the library is just exactly what we see in the general public. We had some people that were very interested in what was going on and what they could do to help and what the problem really is. And we had other people that just “yeah, my kids having some fun playing with the cat and when it’s done, bye, have a good day.” This is just a microcosm of what goes on throughout the country, but I guess to really say what our plan is right now, our plan is we get to Oregon, we get settled in a little bit. We’ll start out by having cats transported in, and we’ll do adoptions that direction while we see what’s actually going on and get things prepared to where we know this is the need. Here’s where the trapping needs to be done. Here’s how we need to progress and just restart and get back up to where we are now.

I know that You said you guys wanted to take some time to kind of get to know everything. Are you guys worried that in that state things were going to be dramatically different, that it could cause issues or any type of problems for you guys? I don’t want to say “well it couldn’t get worse”. In some respects, I kind of had that feeling that it really couldn’t be worse. Right here, what the general public doesn’t understand or realize. I see it. Some of my colleagues and rescues see it as well. There’s a battle brewing between the rescues and the shelters. Shelters are trying to take things over the bigger ones. I should say, they’re trying to take over and they want to be in charge of everything. In fact, the largest shelter here in Colorado, they run their own animal protection service. It’s very, very, very loosely tied to the ASPCA. And only in like, contacts only, but they run their own animal protection system. I really don’t understand quite how they do it, but they do. The state recently passed a statute that talks about stray cats and what has to be labeled a stray cat. And what they’ve said is, anytime anybody gets a stray cat off the street, they’re gonna take it to a shelter and the shelter is to determine what happens to it. One thing they didn’t do is they didn’t put a definition of what a stray cat is. We have a colleague in a different part of the metro area that her state inspector came out and threatened her and said, Any cat you have, you better have a surrender form on you. Or you better have something that indicates that’s not a stray cat. Because if you have a stray cat and you haven’t taken it to a shelter, I’m gonna fine you $1,000 per cat. Wow. And that’s hard because some people have outdoor cats that could be mistaken as a stray cat. You heard me talking about community cats on a very regular basis in the city and county of Denver. That is what it’s called. They are community cats. They aren’t feral cats. They aren’t stray cats. They aren’t abandoned cats. Outdoor cats without any real visible ownership are community cats. The only definition they have for cats is what is a cat. That’s definitely eye opening to me and I’m with you that that could definitely be mistaken in so many different ways. The way that some of the shelters are looking at it is if a cat is brought in and it’s a friendly cat, no microchip, no collar, no visible idea of any type. It’s gonna sound horrible, but that’s free money. If the shelter gets that cat. The shelter places that cat for adoption and collects the adoption fee. If they determine it to be a feral cat that they don’t want, then they hand it back to the rescue and say, “OK, you can have that one.” Then the rescue has to worry about getting it fixed, getting it shots and putting it back out.

You know, I can tell by talking to you that you genuinely care about this information and stuff like this. And this is why I asked you if you guys had any intentions on educational programs. Because when you hear somebody that’s talking about something that’s so passionate about it, it tends to stick more than when you’re talking to somebody who, you can tell clearly doesn’t really care about that topic. And the problem is when you try to educate people, if people don’t care about it, you’re talking to people that aren’t gonna listen. Oftentimes, when you’re educating people, there’s a difference. When you’re preaching to the choir, you’re not making much traction. When you can’t get the people that need to learn, they won’t listen, you’re spinning your wheels. And a lot of it is — the problem is it’s wheel spinning. We try very hard. Everybody that contacts us and says, “Hey, I’ve got these cats in my backyard and I want them gone.” The first thing we tell him is “that’s not gonna solve your problem.” And they said, “Well, what do you mean?” “Well, it’s not gonna solve your problem.” We always ask, “Okay, which community are you in?” Because we need to know, who are we dealing with? What county are we dealing with now? Which municipality are we dealing with? Because things are different, even within the metro Denver area.” If they tell us there in Denver, okay, here’s the policy. Here’s the deal. Here’s how it’s going down. If they’re in one suburb in particular, I hope they changed. I don’t see it happening right away, but I think some people are starting to listen and understand and realize they have a major problem. They believe that cats are a nuisance, and this is speaking with their animal control officers. If someone is feeding feral cats, they can give them tickets for causing a public nuisance because they’re putting food out that might bring other animals in such a as raccoons, foxes, skunks, etc. And they want to give him tickets for doing that. If the people say “Now, wait a minute. Hold it. I’ve had those cats fixed, and I’ve had them get their shots.” “Oh, okay. So you own those cats. So do you have the Rabies tags? I want to see them. If you have more than five, then we’re gonna give you tickets for having more than five.” And it gets worse for the people to actually try to take care of the problems. Such as “Okay, well, we’ll get him trapped in fixed to do something about them.” Then they want not only a $35 per night fee, per trap, to rent from that municipality. They also want a $35, per trap license fee. And no, the city won’t do it. They tell the people “you have to do it yourself. We’re not going to help you with it”. All they want to do is make money off of it. In a sense, no wonder why this is such a big deal in that area is because it kind of just seems like it’s a circle, but it seems that there’s always going to be a reason like it’s never ending.

And we did work a little bit in one mobile home park in this particular city, and we found out that the vast majority of the cats in this colony had FIV, and they also had a condition of FIP. Of course, the FIV is feline aids, but the FIP is a very dangerous communicable disease in cats that the cats, just all of a sudden lose the ability to maintain their body temperature. They stop eating, they stopped drinking, and they essentially freeze to death on their own because their body temperatures just go down to where they can’t sustain themselves anymore. And there’s nothing that they can do about it. Making it known to people can definitely benefit in some aspect. And that’s what I feel like you guys were doing. And I heard that for you guys, so I know that we’ve been on it for a little bit, and I don’t want to take up so much of your time. I know you guys are in the process of relocating. Can people still contact you guys and if so, how can they do that?

They can contact us through our website, but right now we are going into our shutdown mode. We’re not doing any trapping for anyone right now. We’re not taking any surrenders right now, and that’s just because we don’t have the time to work with them. Right now, what we’re looking at is we are going to be completely suspended as of January 1st, there is a website that we do send people to, and it’s called nokillnetwork.org. And people can find a list of organizations that do qualify as truly know kill. And I guess that’s another thing that I want to say something about real quick here. There is no such thing as absolutely no kill. Now, our policy is if you have a cat that is ill, that is not going to be recovering, and it’s better off that it be put down in consultation with our vet, we’ll do that. Now, do we prefer to do that? Of course not! If there’s any chance that cat has to survive and have a good life. That’s what we’re gonna work for. But if our event says you know what the humane thing to do is to put this one out of its misery. Well, okay, that’s what we’re gonna do. And there are a lot of groups that are like that, and to us, that’s no kill. There are some people out there that says if you would ever take a cat or an animal to a vet to have it put down, no matter what the situation is, then you’re a kill shelter. Well, okay, if that’s your definition, I guess that’s your definition. But once again, it’s all definitional. It is definitely different to euthanize a pet and due to lack of space rather than euthanizing a pet, that’s–they’re going to spend majority of their life suffering due to whatever illness or injury that they’ve endured. And I’m with you in that. Nobody ever wants to say goodbye to a pet. You know, whether they’re yours or not.

I kind of want to wrap things up here and just let you guys know that I love what you guys are doing. I love your story. It’s not your typical one, but it makes it that much more special. And I really wanna thank you for taking the time to talk with me today and inform our listeners on the issues that you guys are facing and what you’re doing to make a difference for those cats in your neighborhood. Thank you. We appreciate that. And we’re hoping we can help some other organizations become more atypical like we are. Yes, I definitely would say so. And I really want to make it a point to you. Keep on doing what you’re doing and educating anybody that you can, that you come in contact with because you have a lot of very great information to provide for these people so well done to that. Thank you.

 

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