Putting the “Nation” in FixNation

I’ve been a big fan of FixNation since contacting them, nearly a year ago, to clear up bogus allegations made in the Toronto Star by documentary filmmaker Maureen Palmer, who’d visited the clinic while filming Cat Crazed. The response I received was prompt and professional. And, it turns out, the beginning of an ongoing conversation.

Last month, while on a business trip to Los Angeles, I had the pleasure—finally—of seeing the FixNation operation for myself, beginning with their bimonthly Catnippers clinic, an all-volunteer community outreach/spay-neuter program now in its 12th year. A few days later, I toured the facility under “normal” conditions—meaning two veterinarians and seven staff sterilizing and vaccinating (and addressing a host of other health issues) 80­–90 cats each day (with an ease and efficiency that would put many manufacturing facilities to shame, to say nothing of our healthcare providers).

Since opening its doors in July 2007, FixNation has sterilized and vaccinated more than 60,000 cats (not including the 16,000 or so brought in through Catnippers), more than 85 percent of which were feral, stray, or abandoned—receiving services at no charge to their caretakers (owners of pet cats are charged a modest fee).

All of which would be impressive enough. But in L.A.—which has more or less become ground zero for the TNR debate since a January 2010 injunction put an end to City support of trap-neuter-return—what FixNation has accomplished is nothing short of heroic.

The Injunction
The original complaint—filed by the Urban Wildlands Group, Endangered Habitats League, Los Angeles Audubon Society, Palos Verdes/South Bay Audubon Society, Santa Monica Bay Audubon Society, and the American Bird Conservancy—was brought under the California Environmental Quality Act, with the plaintiffs arguing, for instance, that TNR “can cause significant adverse environmental impacts by causing proliferation of rats and raccoons and creating water pollution problems.”

(As for how the restriction—or elimination, as ABC has proposed—of TNR would benefit the wildlife these groups claim to protect is anybody’s guess, and a topic for another post.)

Under the provisions of the injunction (in its revised version, filed with the court in March 2010), the City, its Board of Animal Services Commissioners, and its Department of Animal Services are prohibited from “promoting TNR for feral cats and encouraging or assisting third parties to carry out a TNR program.”

City agencies are no longer allowed to:

  • “Assist or provide incentives for, or otherwise facilitate the capture, sterilization and release of feral cat;
  • Provide discounts or discount vouchers for spay or neuter surgeries for feral cats…
  • Release feral cats from shelters to TNR groups or individuals [if the cats will be placed into a colony].
  • Develop or distribute literature on the TNR program or conduct pubic outreach on TNR using press releases, fliers, or other media except in conjunction with the proposed [California Environmental Quality Act] process…
  • Knowingly referring complaints about feral cats to TNR groups or individuals who engage in TNR.” [1]

Nevertheless, TNR continues in L.A.—with many supporters more determined than ever. And I understand the City of Los Angeles is working (albeit far too slowly) to get the injunction lifted. Still, the loss of City-funded vouchers—which provided a substantial portion of overall revenue for many TNR programs—is taking its toll. According to founders Mark Dodge and Karn Myers, FixNation lost about $300,000 in annual revenue, more than 20 percent of its yearly budget.

The fact that they’ve been able to continue their community outreach and provide no-/low-cost spay/neuter services for the past couple of years is, as I say, truly heroic. But now, as Myers explains in a video released late last week, FixNation needs our help.

Today, We Are All Angelenos
Charity, it’s often said, begins at home. And I do what I can to support local TNR and low-cost spay/neuter programs. But the stakes are extraordinarily high in L.A.—in terms of lives saved or lost, but also in terms of the city’s symbolic value as a community committed to trap-neuter-return despite both the injunction and the faltering economy. Which is why I also support the organizations doing the heavy lifting there—among them, FixNation.

If you’re able to make a (tax-deductible) donation, I encourage you to do so. If not, please pass the word along to other TNR supporters.

Need a little more incentive? For the rest of the month, PetSmart Charities will match every “new donor” dollar up to $51,000. You can even turn your holiday shopping into a contribution: FixNation will receive 5 percent of December sales from Moderncat Studio, makers of beautifully designed cat toys, scratchers, and more.

Thank you.

Literature Cited
1. Urban Wildlands Group et al. vs. City of Los Angeles et al. (Case No. BS 115483). Stipulated Order Modifying Injunction. March 10, 2010. Los Angeles Superior Court.

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