A long-promised post:
When “Timber Howligan, Secret Agent Cat” comes out in June, I said I would donate any proceeds to the American Humane Association. That was my first pick. I like that they are concerned with the lives of all animals kept by humans, not just house pets. Having lived on a farm, Timber Howligan knows that all animals deserve humane care. How we provide that is often a matter of debate, and sometimes there are no easy answers. Then I saw this TED talk on dirty jobs, which includes an uncomfortable discussion of sheep castration, and realized the AHA, while they mean well, doesn’t always get it right. So I started researching, and I discovered that maybe, if Timber had a choice, he might pick another charity for his book to support.
Not that the AHA isn’t worth supporting if you want to help animals. Its Farm Animal Welfare program certifies farms that raise animals free from hunger, discomfort, pain, and fear. Have you ever bought certified cage-free eggs? That’s the AHA at work. Other programs include research into animal health and wellness, emergency services for animals during disasters, and promoting adoption of homeless pets. For such a large organization, I find it reassuring that 78.7% of funds go toward programs. But the American Humane Society is jointly concerned with the protection of both animals and children. Timber is all for preventing child abuse, but given the likely scale of his book’s fund-raising effort, it might make sense to focus it on a program that has a single mission.
Then I found Alley Cat Allies. I joined right away.
What we all know is that there’s a problem with overcrowding in animal shelters, right? And we assume that the problem is all those cats are looking for a home.
Wrong. Many of the cats are inappropriately impounded feral cats—they are not meant to live with humans, and they belong in the wild. A policy of Trap-Neuter-Return is the standard of care. Not euthanize.
Impounding feral cats is bad for everyone—bad for shelter morale, bad for the cats, bad for the owners who might inappropriately adopt them. Alley Cat Allies works to transform shelters and educate them about the feral cat population. Once shelters implement a Feral Cat Protection Policy, they no longer impound these cats who are living healthy lives outdoors.
By striving to improve the lives of feral cats, Alley Cat Allies transforms shelters and helps make room for every animal that needs that space. Small action, big consequences. That’s an effective charity.
As a life-long cat lover, this changed the way I look at animal shelters. I still see them as a potential haven for lost or abandoned animals–at least there’s hope. But so few animals find a home. And no-kill shelters are so hard to find. Does that mean shelters aren’t worth supporting? Lord, no. I’ve never walked through an animal shelter and thought, “Wow, this place is luxurious! They have everything they need.” Donating to your local animal shelter still provides a direct benefit to your animal community.
But I’ve picked Alley Cat Allies as the charity that Timber Howligan is going to support. When you read the book, you’ll realize there’s a reason why Timber would do anything to improve the lives of caged animals. Alley Cat Allies gets it.
I plan to finish the final edits in the next two weeks. The cover design process is under way. I should be on track for June. Stay tuned for an actual publication date soon!