All in a Day’s Work – Michelin’s Story

The paramedics had saved the life of an elderly heart attack victim were  headed back home when they heard a not-so-human cry coming from the dumpster at the back of the ambulance.  As each of them realized their day was not yet done, they gave in to the heart-tugs that told them what they had to do next.

They made a human rope, one enlongating the next, until they found the squeaky, greasy, messy little baby inside a discarded tire.  They gently pulled her out, then began tossing dollars and quarters into one of their hard hats until they had enough to pretty much cover what she needed to save her life and bring her back to heath.  What a beautiful baby, what lovely people and ACT feels so fortunate for being a part of this heartwarming happy ending.

Mish-Mash (so nicknamed) says thank you from her new home with the paramedics, where the burley big men show affection to the smallest life they’ve ever saved.

August 29, 2012 at 7:07 pm 4 comments

Volunteer Call

Our August 6th VIP-Volunteer Pizza Party was a huge success, in spite of the weather! Many “Thanks” to volunteer Nathalie Labao for hosting our event at Skypoint in downtown Tampa! As Linda Hamilton, Executive Director shared some information on ACT’s history and vision, we dined on gourmet pizza from Pizza Fusion! Then we started table talks about how we wanted to help based on the needs.

As we gear up for our annual fundraising event “Stride for Strays” we hope to have more frequent volunteer meetings where we can meet new people who are interested in helping with the event and pre-event activities!

Join us for our next meeting scheduled for Wednesday, September 5th at 6:00pm at 502 N. Gilcrest Ave., Tampa, FL 33606!

Many “Thanks” to volunteer David Figeuroa for painting our Community Outreach Room this past weekend so we can meet in our New Home! Catch the wave of excitement and meet other animal loving volunteers over something yummy to eat and drink! (Donations for food are appreciated but not expected)


August 29, 2012 at 7:05 pm Leave a comment

What is TNR (and V)?

Right now we’ve got 210,000 free-roaming cats in Hillsborough County – living outside with no identifiable owner and often good survival skills but poor people skills. They’re lost or abandoned, or the offspring of those cats, they’re already out there, and the most effective, practical and humane way any community has ever found to date for dealing with them is called TNR, which stands for Trap…Neuter…and Return (or TNVR = Vaccinate).

The men and women who do this as volunteers, with no public funding, are skilled, caring practitioners – not crazy cat ladies. We use a little food to lure the cats into humane traps and then we take them to local vets who sterilize and check them, treat them for fleas, any ear mites or other conditions, vaccinate them for rabies and often distemper as well, and then, after recovery, they are returned to the place where they were found (unless they’re in imminent danger).

During surgery, the vet notches (or “tips”) one of the cat’s ears so that anyone can see that the cat has been sterilized and vaccinated. Once they’re released, volunteers manage and monitor the colony. Of course friendly strays and young kittens are placed into foster care and adoption programs.

This community has been practicing TNR in Hillsborough County for over 10 years. Over 33,000 cats have been TNR’d with the help of the Animal Coalition of Tampa and the Humane Society of Tampa Bay and all the rescue groups working with the shelter – and this hard work directly lowers the cat euthanasia rate at Hillsborough County Animal Services, our shelter – because these cats never enter the shelter to begin with.

If we could get the estimated 55,000 households in Hillsborough County who are feeding stray cats to TNR those cats, we could really stabilize and eventually reduce the homeless cat population and all the conflicts resulting from cats’ breeding behaviors. All of the other options – catch and kill, catch and contain, or ignore the problem – are cruel, unfeasible or ineffective.

So what’s the controversy about?

Actually, there was no controversy about this practice until recently.

We’re fortunate here in Hillsborough County to have a compassionate and visionary county commission, led by Ken Hagan, who directed our shelter to move in the direction of no-kill, like Manatee County has — and 49 other communities, a list that’s growing all the time.

So the county recently hired a progressive and compassionate shelter director from Austin, a no-kill shelter, who can lead this change and save lives.

In every one of the 50 or more communities including Austin where a shelter is saving 90% or more of animals’ lives (which is the definition of no-kill), TNR is a prominent and essential part of the plan – as it is in Manatee – it’s at the top of the list if you look at their plan: Fewer cats born, fewer cats entering the shelter. The TNR groups work in partnership with the shelter.

Instead of embracing no-kill and supporting this wonderful, promising community effort to reform our shelter using the very best practices, proven to work in other communities and advocated and practiced by many veterinary schools, leaders of The Hillsborough County Veterinary Medical Society and the Hillsborough Animal Health Foundation, and two vets on the county Animal Advisory Committee, took great exception to this shift and are now trying to slow down or completely derail reform.

They’re leading a very vocal and emotional fear-based campaign based on what is often referred to as “shaky science” against TNR and all those who practice it, saying that the cats are a threat to humans. They want TNR banned. And they want to criminalize anyone who feeds an outdoor cat, which means we can’t lure them to traps in order to vaccinate and sterilize them.

Of course the reasons about why all this is happenning are speculation, but it has been said that this is simply a back-door attempt to derail shelter reform altogether. Since the 10 steps to moving to no-kill are well-defined as practiced in 50 other communities, there’s not much reason to try to impose their own untested plan on Hillsborough – which basically centers on warehousing cats outdoors.

Speculation: Is it just an arrogant display of power and money – “we’re smarter than you because we went to vet school and law school” (and BTW many of the top vet schools in the country advocate and practice TNR)?

Speculation: Are they concerned that the two clinics most involved with TNR – ACT and HSTB – are opening low-cost community pet wellness clinics, which somehow challenges the traditional veterinary business model?

Speculation: Are they trying to avoid a change in veterinarian practice models?

One wonders if they’ve ever visited a no-kill shelter or read the definitive research and writings on no-kill by Nathan Winograd. They’ve succeeded in making no-kill a phrase we dare not speak at local government meetings.

We believe they do not represent most vets in our community, who – from my experience – are completely devoted to saving more animals’ lives using the best practices available.

They’re whipping up fear of wild zombie killer cats – which I think plays on a fear of nature – panphobia, if you will — and all wild things that we can’t dominate and totally control. We humans are actually the greatest danger to wild animals and their habitat, and the very climate we share.

What is the alternative is presented by these naysayers?

  There are only 4 alternatives:

 1. ignore the problem

 2. catch and kill (we’ve tried for a century)

3. catch and contain (tried and abandoned)

4. TNR (and vaccinate)

TNR is not perfect – but it’s the best solution ever found. It’s humane and practical. As a community, we have TNR’d over 33,000 since 2006, resulting in 10,000 fewer cats being taken in (inevitably killed) PER YEAR. We get these cats fixed so they don’t multiply and everyone wins. They’re vaccinated so they don’t spread disease.

These anti-TNR folks want to trap and sterilize cats, and adopt out the ones who can be adopted out – and we’re totally in agreement there – but then they want to build a bunch of fenced-in, netted camps or outdoor warehouses, I guess you could call them, for unfriendly feral cats on county taxpayer-donated land or in people’s backyards.

It’s one of these things that sounds good in theory, so beware, but has no basis in reality at all. Who will trap over 200,000 cats? Who will feed them and care for them, and provide ongoing vet care? My vet is very busy! Who will drive out to remote county land to care for these cats on a daily basis? Who will pay to house and care for 200,000 cats, or 100,000 cats for their entire lives?

Catch and contain, their plan — has never, ever been done, anywhere – not on a massive scale like what we’re talking about here. Taking care of even a few hundred cats a year in a sanctuary costs more than a half million dollars – ask Best Friends, which runs such a sanctuary. In recent years we’ve seen three well-meaning cat sanctuaries fail in Florida, in part, because closely confined feral cats are prone to stress and disease, and we end up with hoarding. Why can’t we let them live out their lives like raccoons and squirrels and other wildlife? Or start a barn cat program for those who absolutely must be relocated?

The public will never support such a solution – those people who are feeding neighborhood cats will never give them up for relocation, but they will TNR them if educated and assisted. That’s what we can do today.

We’re all concerned that by whipping up public fear of feral cats without offering a better alternative will end up with our community cats being rounded up and killed.

Our county Animal Advisory Committee (whose meetings are televised – and we highly recommend that people attend or watch these meetings) has been asked to form a task force to write a plan for lowering our shelter’s kill rate. We encourage you to apply to be on this task force. When Manatee wrote their plan, TNR was at the top of the list. What will Hillsborough do?

We need to have a community conversation about this, based on compassion and what has worked in other communities – and we can’t let all this talk of containing scary killer zombie cats distract us from trying to save lives.

As we speak, 40 animals are dying in our shelter every day, mostly cats. If you google No Kill Communities, or check out, the steps for changing this TODAY are well documented – and TNR is always at the top of the list. We just need the commitment and the involvement of our community to do it.

August 29, 2012 at 7:02 pm 1 comment

Program To Spay/Neuter Feral Cats Is In Jeopardy

ACT NOW to save the lives of thousands of stray cats!

You see them in neighborhoods, in the alleys, behind gas stations and grocery stores all over the Tampa Bay area. But these feral cats are now, more than ever, in very grave danger.

The Hillsborough Animal Health Foundation (HAHF) wants the trapping, fixing, vaccinating and returning of feral cats to be outlawed.  The group has a pleasant name, but it has adopted extremist positions. If they had their way, this small group would stop all efforts to allow feral cats to live their lives out in their colonies. They would rather have feral cats breed uncontrolled, and more cats be caught and killed in the county shelter.

This tunnel-vision group is dangerous and touts myths and pseudo-science.

Our experience and numbers prove that feral cat populations stabilize and dwindle with spay/neuter. Their health is improved and their role in our community is improved with vaccinations and colony care. And, that people go out of their way to care for and protect the cats.

The Truth is that since the Animal Coalition of Tampa’s Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program began in 2002, the number of cat intakes at our county animal control facility has decreased dramatically.  In the last seven years, the number of cats brought to the animal control facility has dropped by nearly 50%. Because of TNR, in the last 12 months, the county shelter “euthanized” 10,000 fewer cats than it did in 2005.

The Truth is that a because of TNR, a record was set in 2011:  Alongside the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, we as a community actually fixed more cats fixed through TNR than were killed at the county shelter.  This is a first for our county.

We know the TNR program is a success and to continue saving the lives of the animals we love, we must now fight against HAHF to save the cats and our programs that help them! Help us keep our programs up and running.      Don’t let them outlaw TNR!

Sign the petition at

There are thousands of beautiful cats “euthanized” in shelters today. We intend to increase spay/neuter and TNR to protect cats and work to stop this needless killing. Take a stand now to protect the lives of our feline friends!

August 29, 2012 at 6:57 pm 3 comments

Pippi’s Story

When Pippi fell ill, he was unable to eat or use his litter box, crying out when anyone came near him. My friend Emmy was so afraid to ask for help, but she could not stand to see her baby in pain.

We headed for the Animal Coalition of Tampa’s clinic to ask for advice and they told us to bring him in right away. We both thought that with some antibiotics he would soon be back to normal.  ACT’s prices were lower than anywhere else, so I thought this was Emmy’s best option.

But then the vet broke the bad news to us and my first thought was that Pippi, also known as “Pippi the Magic Cat,” had finally run out of magic.  His bladder was blocked and he was in pain from the stones he could not pass.  We were stunned and I worried about how Emmy would survive without her cuddly companion if he couldn’t be treated.

When I first met Emmy, she had survived six decades of painful adversities and was suffering from one day to the next, powerless to control her own future.

When Emmy first met Pippi the Magic Cat, he too was a survivor and was suffering from the uncertainty of being born into an unplanned litter. Together they rescued each other, forming a loving bond that would strengthen them for many hardships to come.

Pippi was going to need surgery to survive.  Emmy burst into tears, not knowing how she would pay for it.  I thought for sure she would be forced to let him go for lack of funds and I knew that this would crush her.

The love between Emmy and Pippi the Magic Cat was born of need — pure in its origin, pure in its power and pure in its ability to turn desperation into determination.  Pippi’s magic was his ability to make Emmy laugh at her dire circumstances.  With him by her side, she knew she could go on, no matter how daunting her situation was.

I have learned so much from Emmy’s fighting spirit. The first time I saw her, she was hobbling past my home on the way back from the grocery store. In spite of the struggle, she lit up the neighborhood with her radiant smile. Then she huffed and she puffed, determined to make it unassisted to my neighbor’s garage that she gratefully called home.

That smile saved me, because I too was struggling.  As a Vietnam veteran who was new in town, I was in need of a distraction from fighting with the VA for my disability benefits so that I too could go on.  I will always be grateful to this beautiful lady for befriending me on that hot and lonely day.

Emmy and I are survivors, each affected by the ravages of war. Growing up poor in Mississippi, she was the daughter of a shell shocked WWII combat veteran who, in a blinding, war-flashback rage, injured his wife and family, leaving his battered oldest child, Emmy, to care for them while recovering from her own seen and unseen wounds. Her childhood was like a nightmare but through sheer determination, she survived.

Emmy put herself through college by winning beauty contests, armed with not only her exotic Russian/Native American good looks, but also with a beautiful singing voice that would later carry her far away from her miserable childhood to New York City for Broadway musicals and a television series.

But every time Emmy wowed the audiences with her performances, it would take her weeks to recover from the stress. She tried other types of work, but she could only hold onto jobs for short periods of time because of her lifelong battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Eventually her frail mother took her in but when she died, so did Emmy’s financial stability.

But somehow she pressed on, fighting for her recovery as well as her independence.  Just as she was making progress, she was injured in a devastating car accident.

Emmy wound up camping on her brother’s couch until he became so frustrated with her for not being able to get a job that he put her in a Tampa homeless shelter.  From there she fell in with people who took advantage of her. Eventually my neighbor, a fellow musician, let her live in her garage.

One day while visiting with Emmy in the garage, I saw framed photos of her “baby,” a fluffy black and white tuxedo cat named Pippi.  She burst into tears when she saw me looking at him, explaining that she’d had to leave him with someone she barely knew when she went to the homeless shelter.

One day I could stand it no more, so I told Emmy we were going to go find her baby.  The woman who had taken him in had a farm way out in Pinellas County, but Emmy could not remember the address nor find any reference to it.

Determined, we drove out there anyway.  Miraculously, Emmy led us to the farm.  We couldn’t get anyone to come to the door when we rang the bell, so I climbed over the fence and then found a way to let her in. When we found him, Pippi was stuffed into a small crate out in the heat – flea-bitten, neglected, dirty and sad.  The woman came out and told Emmy she could not have him back because she had no money to pay her for boarding him.

Never get in the way of an angry female Vietnam vet!  I’ll spare you the details of how it went down, but we wound up with Pippi the Magic Cat in the backseat of my old car, cuddling and crawling all over Emmy the whole way home, his motor almost louder than the one under my hood.  Twice I had to pull over to dry my tears before I could continue driving.

While the hot and stuffy garage that Emmy and her kitty lived in was better than living on the streets, the situation there was grim. So one day I began the long ordeal of getting Emmy the government benefits she had earned over decades of working.

The day we walked into her new government-subsidized apartment for the first time was the first day of freedom for Emmy and her little feline friend. No more would they suffer from lack of shelter in the heat and storms and freezing cold, fearful of predators, human and otherwise.  No more would they be forced to live in dangerous situations, not knowing where their next meal would come from.  Best of all, they would never again be separated from each other.

At last they could forever leave behind the indignities of homelessness. The senior living center is full of people like Emmy – they are all lost souls just like her, hoping to make it through just one day at a time.  Best of all, they let the residents keep their pets there.

Emmy and Pippi the Magic Cat have had a happy life since getting their own place.  When her health allows, Emmy gives back to her community by singing for weddings and funerals and entertaining audiences around town at nursing homes.

They still have many challenges. “So often I feel like I’m caught in a vise,” says Emmy.  “Some people doubt my disability and push me to deny it, while others pile on pity.  My kitty does none of these things. He shows me every minute of every day that it’s OK to just be me.”

ACT came to Pippi’s rescue with an experienced surgeon and medical team, plus respite care overnight and through the weekend at an emergency services clinic. For ACT, no cost was too great to save Pippi so he could go back to performing his magic on Emmy.

Pippi is now on the mend.  His stitches are out and he is healing under the watchful eyes of the big-hearted woman who saved him so he could save her.  He is back to his old self, making Emmy laugh with his magic tricks.

Emmy and her kitty will continue their fight for survival, but with very limited funds and now a huge medical bill to save Pippi looming over them, this is an uphill, very stressful battle.

Can you be a part of their survival with a donation toward Pippi’s medical expenses?  We want the angels at the Coalition to continue performing the magic that saves so many of Tampa Bay’s animals and the people who depend on them.

It is very painful to ask, but it would mean so much to us. Please contact ACT at 813-250-3900.

With love and gratitude –
Pippi and Emmy’s Friend

July 12, 2012 at 4:23 pm Leave a comment

Pippi Lives: The Angel Fund Needs ICU

Pippi being loved back to health by ACT’s staff

One way that we care is through your donations to the Angel Fund.  Angel was the first little pit that was found by the side of the road, so skinny that her ribs protruded and she couldn’t lift her head.  One of our volunteers nursed her back to health but couldn’t afford the medical care, so we put a jar out and flyer and we asked for help through the Angel Fund.  The donations covered Angel and the concept took hold, so it now covers other destitute situations that come our way.

The Angel Fund went into the deep red for Pippi.  But the good news is that Pippi lives!

Pippi is the light of his mom’s life.  She’s had many hardships and Pippi is her only anchor.  They are like Salt and Pepper.  Peas in a pod.  Yin and yang.

Mom worked hard to get out of a homeless shelter when they would give her a roof but not extend it to Pippi.  Back in a very humble but private space, Pippi recently fell ill.  He was unable to eat or use his litter box and cried out whenever anyone came near him.  Mom thought it was something that would be cured with antibiotics, but didn’t have money for even that and felt guilty and helpless and very depressed.

Then Mom heard about ACT and a friend paid for an exam.  The horrible news was that antibiotics would never touch what was wrong with Pippi.  He was in lots of pain from a blocked bladder and stones he could not pass. The reality that she could lose her baby showed on her face as shock, but was soon replaced with relief when the medical team at ACT was determined to find a way despite Mom’s dire financial situation. The surgery and aftercare took 3 long days and ran around $1500, including two nights of aftercare that ACT had to outsource.

Now, Pippi is home and Mom is loving him back to health.  But the Angel Fund is in trouble.  It’s underwater. That’s the bad news.  But we can fix that with your help!   Click on Donate, and in the special instructions text box, write in “FOR ANGEL FUND.”  We will send a note of your compassion in your name to Pippi and his Mom.

For the full story as relayed by a friend, click here.

July 11, 2012 at 7:43 pm 1 comment

Qs & As

Do you have a medical or behavioral question for our vets?  Submit your question to us and we’ll ask one of our vets to research it for you.  We will then print the question and answer in our newsletter.  Please submit your questions to

Questions from a client:  “Do you need to see a doctor first to schedule surgery? I have a black lab 9 yrs old who has a growth on her upper eyelid. I would like it to be removed.”

Answer:  Yes.  Although we perform growth removals, pyometras and other live-saving surgeries, our veterinarian needs to see your pet for an evaluation.  The low cost surgeries are extremely popular and can take about a week to schedule. If yours is an emergency, make sure the receptionist knows that when you call 813-250-3900 and we will accommodate the situation.  

Question from a client:  “I don’t have much money.  What should I do?”

Answer:  Call us so we can help.  Our prices are low. Most often, once you realize how small the fees are to do what your pet is in need of, you can find the money.  We keep our prices low because we live our motto “Caring more.  Costing less.”  If that doesn’t work, we’ll help you figure a way around it.  That’s the Caring part.

July 11, 2012 at 7:37 pm 2 comments

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