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February, 2012:

P.U.P.S. Interview with Devon Smith, OAR Clinic Director

Lorna Poston interviews Devon Smith, the Clinic Director at OAR

What is OAR, Ohio Alleycat Resource?

OAR is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization, which promotes non-lethal control of
feral cats in the Cincinnati area through a TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) program. In
addition, they run a small shelter that houses tame cats and kittens until they
find their forever home.

How did you get involved with OAR, and what is your title/job description?

 I’m new to OAR! I moved to Cincinnati in May 2011 to take the position of Clinic Director in OAR’s spay/neuter clinic.

When was OAR founded, and how did it get its start?

It was founded in 1998 in O’Bryonville by Kathleen Nicholson, a local business owner who was concerned about feral cats in the neighborhood. She was soon joined by others who wanted to help cats in their own neighborhoods. From the beginning, the group practiced Trap-Neuter-Return on feral cats and took small kittens into a rescue for socialization and adoption.

Please tell about your Feral Cat Fix-a-thon.

Our Feral Cat Fix-a-thon was held Saturday, October 15, 2011, in honor of National Feral Cat Day. Funded in part by Alley Cat Allies, and by our generous donors and volunteers, we offered $5 surgeries to the public on October 15, 2011, and then the week that followed National Feral Cat Day.

At our Fix-a-thon, we spayed/neutered 78 feral cats in one day – two vets, each with their own surgery team, worked the surgery day, switching halfway through the day (only one vet worked at a time). Over the course of the whole weeklong feral extravaganza, our surgery staff fixed 166 ferals!

We started planning our Fix-a-thon in August, writing grants to cover the cost, and lining up colony caretakers whom we could help. The effort took all of our staff and a good many of our volunteers – the post-surgery mess that had to be cleaned up was covered by our wonderful volunteers, who mopped, did laundry, and scrubbed traps for hours the following day!

Do you have an assistance program for anyone needing to have his or her
cat spayed or neutered? 

Our regular surgery cost is $35 – our goal is to keep surgery affordable so that cost is never a barrier to have your pet spayed or neutered. To that end, we also offer assistance to help with that $35 cost for those who cannot afford it. We partner with other groups who offer vouchers for surgery (e.g. Scratching Post Cat Shelter and League for Animal Welfare); we write grants to help people fix their feral colonies, and help low-or no-income families fix their cats at a reduced rate; and we offer specials throughout the year to reduce the cost. In February, we will be offering $20 spays, thanks to a PetSmart “Beat the Heat” grant we were awarded.

On Spay Day, February 28th, we’ll be offering free surgeries to a targeted area in greater Cincinnati.

In addition, we work with some wonderful groups in Kentucky who help cover the cost of surgery for northern Kentucky residents. The Friends of the Kenton County Animal Shelter and Friends of the Shelter Boone County both co-pay the entire cost of surgery for residents of their counties – clients only pay for a $10 rabies vaccine!

Cat owners who call and have a difficult time covering the $35 cost, we can usually come up with a creative way to make sure we, or the animal welfare community at large, can help them get their cats fixed! If folks need help, they should always call us and see what we can do to make sure their cats get fixed.

You practice TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return), the most humane method for population control of feral cats. How many ferals did you TNR in 2011?

OAR has a TNR group that meets monthly to identify colonies that need our help, and goes out trapping together fairly frequently. But the true achievement at OAR is that we really encourage residents to learn how to do TNR on their own, rather than relying on others for help. We loan out traps (we  have a trap bank of about 80 traps, including a few drop traps) and teach people how to trap, but the goal of our TNR Resource Center is to empower people to practice TNR in their neighborhoods on their own – that way, far more colonies in greater Cincinnati can benefit from TNR, and not wait for our volunteers to come out and help! Our own TNR group doesn’t keep track of how many cats we TNR (and as individuals we’re always out doing “side projects”!). But OAR has spayed/neutered 1,373 ferals in 2011.

Do you have tame cats available for adoption?

OAR does operate a small shelter of adoptable cats, with about 80 or so cats (though, as with any shelter, we always have more cats than the “80 or so” OAR tries to keep it at! Thank goodness for fabulous foster homes.).

How many cats found their forever home in 2011, and how many are
currently waiting for their family? 

In 2011, OAR is on track to adopt out 200 cats and kittens (Julien, cat #192, is going home
today!) – but don’t worry, there are still 110 sweet and deserving kitties who still need to be placed! We took in 15 abandoned cats recently, as well as 6 from a hoarding situation that several shelters helped with, and they (along with all the others) would love to be on a cozy couch!

If people want to make a donation, how would they do that?

Donations are always greatly appreciated! Gifts to OAR help care for the hundreds of cats that come through our shelter every year, as well as help us reduce the cost of spay/neuter surgeries for our clients.Donations can be made on our website, at www.ohioalleycat.org, or can be sent to our address at 5619 Orlando Place, Cincinnati, OH 45227.

I’m sure OAR is always in need of items other than money such as treats, toys, cleaning supplies, etc. Do you accept donations of these as well?

Some of our favorite donations are bleach and laundry detergent! We do a lot of laundry in this place.  We also love donations like trash bags, Ziploc bags, hand sanitizer, and paper towels. In surgery, donations of puppy pads (to place in the ferals’ cages) and old towels and sheets are always gratefully accepted.

For the kitties at the shelter, their wish list includes washable toys, small, stainless steel bowls, and liquid KMR for the bottle feeders!

Thanks for taking the time for an interview, Devon. I live in Missouri, but I hope to
visit your facility one day. OAR is making great strides to help homeless and feral cats, and I know they are grateful.

To learn more about OAR, please visit http://www.ohioalleycat.org/.

Editor’s Note:  Check out Author Lorna G. Poston’s blog:  http://myriadmusings-lgposton.blogspot.com/

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