Today, I have a very special guest named Shawn Simons. Many of you know her as the former Headmistress of Kitty Bungalow Charm School for Wayward Cats in Los Angeles. She is now off in a seaside town called Saranda, Albania, learning to speak Shqip (yup, that’s what it’s called) and opening her heart to overseas cats and dogs who have no aid, no healthcare, and no homes. Her effort is called Trash Cats and Dumpster Dogs International Spay Neuter Initiative.
Albania doesn’t have many veterinarians, and the country isn’t very open to spay/neuter efforts in companion animals, let alone with street animals. Shawn’s program aims to help train local vets and provide these services to the animals who most need them. How did she get this started? One step at a time.
- Data Collection. Shawn’s volunteers separated into teams and divided the area into 6 quadrants. They took notes and photos of all the cats they encountered to get a good idea of the number of animals needing the services. They then added 40% to the number of visible cats and 20% to the dogs since dogs are less prone to hiding. They have currently identified 147 cats and 123 dogs needing services based on this method.
- Identify obstacles and factors in the size of the population. They identified which categories of animal such a roaming owned, roaming semi-owned, or roaming un-owned is creating the largest influx of cats. They also looked at obstacles like religion and social factors. Due to its previous communist regime, Albanian residents look more towards feeding people before feeding strays so the idea of caring for unowned animals can be a challenging subject to broach.
- Education. Shawn is focusing on educating the population. Cat owners need to understand the concept of sterilization and what resources are available to them. She’s also trying to provide animal welfare education to local schools to help influence future generations.
- Resources. Although money is one thing, manpower and government support are still necessary. Since Saranda has relatively few vets, and those that they do have are trained in farm animals, the initiative will focus on bringing in vets from around the world to help provide the spay/neuter services.
With these steps completed, the organization is meeting with the local government to create relationships and next steps. They plan to provide free medical assessments and sterilization to owned cats starting in the fall and will start trapping efforts later in the year.
If Shawn hasn’t already proven that she’s amazing with her past efforts (she has), she’s really impressing with this one. Taking a look at the steps above, though, we know that she still needs resources. Do you want to help? Think you’re too far? Think again! She’s hosting a raffle that you can win from anywhere. The prize? 7 fab days in the seaside Saranda Grand Hotel so you can get up in the action yourself. Each entry is $1, and they get cheaper if you buy more. Fancy, we know.
Uncertain about the location? Shawn says: Saranda is the gateway to the Albania Riviera and there you can find beaches that mimic Greece and the Caribbean. You have it all: beautiful beaches, fresh healthy food, friendly people, and a lot of homeless kittens!
Any questions for Shawn on her ambitious and already-impressive TNR efforts? Comment below and we’ll make sure she sees them.
**FTC Disclosure: No payment was taken for this post and this blog has no stake in this raffle. It’s all for the cats and dogs of Sarande. **