First “Okey’s Promise: Celebrating the Human – Animal Bond” painting is complete!

Asian boy painting
Painting by BZTAT

The first painting for the Okey’s Promise: Celebrating the Human Animal Bond project is complete! This is the first painting in the series, based on a photo of a young man named Isaac who lives in Rochester, NY (We will get a better photo of the painting soon).

The background contains images created by students at 2 local schools who are participating in the project through the Domestic Violence Project, Inc. (DVPI). I met with the students along with a therapist from DVPI, and we talked with them about the importance of treating animals in a humane manner. We also talked about how animal abuse and domestic violence are linked, and encouraged them to share their own experiences.

Asian boy painting close-up

I was encouraged to hear many of these students sharing how their animals were spayed and neutered and otherwise well tended. Some shared of loss of a pet. One shared that he had difficulty understanding boundaries with a pet, leaving him with frequent scratches on his arms. He seemed to gain new understanding from our discussion. His teacher was hopeful.

Okey's Promise Gallery installationThe project will include a series of 10-12 professional artworks (approx. 48” H x 32” W each) that relate to the links between animal abuse, domestic violence and child abuse. These artworks will become a traveling exhibit that will be used locally by the DomesticViolence Project, Inc. (DVPI) and other interested agencies at events and other designated activities to raise awareness about the issues of domestic violence and pet abuse.

My hope is that the project will travel nationwide. If you are interested in having it visit your city, contact me.

Each face depicted in the exhibit will represent the outcome that we seek – safe, happy children and animals – with the backgrounds depicting the artwork of youth on the issues of animal abuse and domestic violence.

Follow posts here to see the project develop!



Trap-Neuter-Return for perpetuity’s sake

managed TNR feral cat colony

Solid research backs up the claims.

Carefully managed feral cat colonies with TNR programs reduce the number of feral cats, thereby reducing the number of problems associated with them.

Trap and remove programs that attempt to eradicate cat populations are plagued with a never ending supply of cats that take the place of the removed ones, thereby increasing the number of problems associated with feral cats.

Cats managed through TNR receive vaccinations and they no longer mate, so the health concerns and nuisance behaviors are drastically reduced. The altered cats protect their colony from interlopers, so their populations stabilize.

The opposite happens in a trap-remove program. There are no vaccinations to reduce the chances of animal to human transmission of diseases. The cats continue to mate, creating more nuisance behaviors. And the cat population increases exponentially.

Conventional wisdom says that killing cats will get rid of a feral cat problem, and get rid of the health risks to which public health officials raise alarm. But there is nothing conventional or wise about that belief.

The opposite is true. The only way reduce the number of problems with feral cats is to spay/neuter them, and then allow them to manage their own populations.

The truth is, TNR = fewer cats = fewer health risks to humans = fewer nuisance behaviors = a safer and more humane society to live within.

St. James Church in New York City has had a model TNR program for feral cats for many years. Recently, they abruptly decided to stop the program and they forbade caregivers from feeding the cats. The misguided goal was to eradicate the cats, hoping that they would just move on from the Church’s property. Unfortunately, that isn’t the way that cats behave.

Luckily, the Archdiocese of New York agreed to meet with TNR advocates from the NYC Feral Cat Initiative. When they met, they learned that 1) eradication was futile and 2) keeping the managed colony would get them closer to their objective than eradication attempts would. A temporary resolution allowing the cats to stay has been developed, and more permanent planning is taking place.


Sadly, another model program has had an unhappier ending.

Loews Portofino Bay Hotel & Loews Royal Pacific Resort in Orlando, FL have for years allowed a colony of cats to reside on their properties, tended by staff and volunteers. Inexplicably, the hotel chain recently decided to eradicate the cats. They refused to listen to advocates or consult with experts, unlike the leaders at St. James Church.

Loews even went so far as to threaten their staff with reprisals if they chose to ignore the new policy. The hotels further enlisted the services of an exterminator who reportedly is trapping the cats in a manner that leaves them highly stressed, urine soaked, and with bloodied noses.

A worldwide outcry for this small group of cats has ensued, and is likely to damage Loews’ brand as a “pet friendly” hotel. They seem to think the furor will eventually die down, but they may be surprised.

The Loews cats are being relocated and not euthanized, thanks to the efforts of Orange County Animal Services and CARE Feline TNR. Relocation is a risky and non-optimal solution, but it is better than euthanization.

All of this brings up some serious considerations for public and private efforts to establish TNR programs. These recent events suggest that it is not sufficient to create a program without putting serious thought into its future sustainability. Once advocates have succeeded in developing programs, they must find ways to establish perpetuity for TNR’s continued success with specific cat colonies.

Otherwise, model colonies that are functioning well will all be vulnerable to changes in leadership and misguided changes in policy.

As we approach leaders in my community of Canton, OH to create a municipal program, we must think beyond our current scenarios and current volunteers as we create a program that will hopefully outlive us all. We need to think about how to prevent the threats that have faced the St. James cats and the Loews cats.

I want to ensure that Canton’s cats will be protected from those who refuse to listen to research and true wisdom.

Any thoughts or suggestions? We are all ears, ear-tipped and all.

Life is an Adventure!



Saving Canton’s Cats and Why It Is So Important.

Feral cat drawing by BZTAT
Drawing by BZTAT

I and other animal welfare advocates have been appearing at Canton, OH City Council meetings for a couple of months now, speaking on behalf of feral cats in the city.

We are trying to overturn a city run Animal Control program that saw 353 feral cats euthanized in 2011, most of which were only destroyed due to being unadoptable. It is a very draconian program that incentivizes the Animal Control Officer to trap a large number of feral cats and wild animals whose lives are ended needlessly.

Advocates have captured the attention of Canton City Council and the Mayor’s administration. After weeks of contentious debate, Council finally passed a resolution to form a TNR exploratory committee, bringing citizens and government officials together to study the issue and recommend a program. The Stark County Humane Society has decided to cease their contract with the city to euthanize feral cats beginning April 30, 2012. This is progress!

The city remains contracted with the Animal Control Officer whose record has prompted so much outrage in the community. His role will be minimized, and eventually eliminated, however, if an effective TNR program can be developed.

This sort of community effort will require a lot of work. Bringing together  community leaders and volunteers from diverse perspectives has its challenges, but I am hopeful that a positive outcome is imminent.

As I have engaged in the process, a question keeps being asked. Why are the cats so important when there are so many other issues of importance to the community?

For a dedicated animal and cat lover like me, the answer is easy. But to people less connected to animals, they do not see how intertwined pet ownership is to the majority of citizens in every community across America. For them, I have one word for explanation.


When Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, Americans became acutely aware of how deeply embedded pets are in our lives and in our culture. Never before had it been made so clear that human beings will inevitably take risks to their own safety in order to save their pets. Rather than seek their own safety, residents of New Orleans and other cities refused to evacuate because they could not take their animals with them. Some lost their lives as a result, as did their pets.

Even if you do not care about animals yourself, you have to realize that other people do. Minimizing the value of animal life minimizes the depth of an animal lover’s emotional connection to animals. A lack of concern for animal welfare touches off some very deep emotions for people, and it will ALWAYS be met with hostility.

In addition to that, the way we treat animals, particularly domestic ones whose DNA has been purposely adapted for human purposes, is indicative of how we treat the needs of any living being. When the needs of animals are minimized or neglected, our arrogance leads to a disregard of other vulnerable beings in our culture.

The purpose of this blog is to bring about awareness to the connections between animal abuse and the abuse of vulnerable human beings. The needless slaughter of feral cats when there are better ways to manage them IS ANIMAL ABUSE. I cannot sit quietly by and let this happen in my own community.

I have been asked to participate in the Canton City Council TNR exploratory committee. I will do so with pride, and I will post updates here about the process.

What is happening in Canton is the status quo for Animal Control in the United States. My hope is that I can promote change both within and beyond my community.

Will you join me in that process? What is happening in your community, and what can you do to bring about positive change?





Feral Cat Rescue: The Big Job is complete.

I have written about a colony of feral cats in Tuscarawas County, OH who helped me learn about the Trap-Neuter-Return process. I even drew their pictures, as they were very inspiring to me. You can see a slideshow below of the drawings.

The cats taught me A LOT. I am very grateful to them. I am sure that they are grateful that I am done, and pretty much out of their lives at this point! They all scatter when I come to visit my friend, their caregiver, which is fine by me.

In all, I trapped 13 cats and 5 kittens. There were two who simply would not be trapped (that I know of). My friend, who recently had heart surgery, will endeavor to trap them when she feels better.

The timing for the trapping turned out to be more urgent than anticipated. Because of our unusually warm weather in both February and March this year, females are going into heat early. We had 7 adult females, some of which had already gone into heat. Do the math. We were able to prevent the colony from growing significantly larger.

The overall clinic costs between One is One of a Kind Pets in Fairlawn, OH who did the spay/neutering, and the Tuscarawas County Humane Society cat shelter, who accepted the kittens, was $305.00. This was due to the very generous offering of One of a Kind Pets Spay Neuter Clinic to do the surgeries at a very low $20 per cat. (THANK YOU OOKP!!!) There were some additional food and supply costs, and transportation costs as well. There was not a feral cat clinic in the area (other than a mobile unit that was not accessible at the times needed), so the cats had to be transported 60 miles each trip. Add to that a 60 mile round trip from my home to the trapping site, and I covered a 994 miles for the intervention.

We had $315 donated to aid in the intervention, and additional monies were contributed by the cats’ caregiver that offset these costs. I am deeply appreciative to those who contributed. The money helped to cover clinic costs, feeding costs, and transportation costs.

One of a Kind Pets Iams food donation
Presenting food vouchers to One of a Kind Spay Neuter Clinic

I am grateful to One is One of a Kind Pets and the Tuscarawas County Humane Society cat shelter for their help with the process, and to Iams Pet Foods, who donated 60 lbs of pet food to both organizations in thanks.

I am also very grateful to Peace For Pets, who loaned me the traps and educated me about the actual TNR procedures.

I have read that you can consider it a successful TNR intervention if you are able to neuter 70% of a colony. We managed to neuter 90%, so I feel that, as a team, we did pretty well!

Doing the intervention was an adventure. I feel that I need to stress, however, that there are many people in my community and across the country who do TNR every day in much more complicated situations than this was. I was in a rural area with a garage enclosure where the cats and I were safe. Often, trappers go into urban areas where the circumstances are much less luxurious. They are true heroes in my book.

I do not know if I will do further trappings. I will assist others when needed, and I am doing some community education about TNR. I am participating in the Canton, OH citywide effort to make TNR the official means of feral cat management for the city. We’ll see where it leads me.

Thanks for following the adventure!

Life is an Adventure!



Public art to make our world a better place for all creatures great and small.