Big Cat Rescuers Help Raise A.C.T. From the Ashes
On April 19 2014 Animal Coalition of Tampa, a low cost spay / neuter clinic was set on fire by an arson. A suspect has been arrested, charged and bail has been set at $500k.
Three precious domestic cats died in the blaze.
Firefighters put the fire out quickly, but there was a lot of fire, water and smoke damage.
On Sunday April 27th Big Cat Rescuers joined ACT in salvaging the surgery tables, animal cages and other medical instruments. We had waves of volunteers come in throughout the day and managed to get all of the metal items washed, polished (to protect them) and stored away so that they can be put back in service as quickly as possible.
A big shout out to everyone who sweat, burned, bled (from the sharp edges, and broken glass everywhere) and worked to exhaustion AND to those who stayed behind at Big Cat Rescue and covered the tours and feeding.
To help ACT rebuild and service thousands of dogs and cats go to ACTampa.org
History of Animal Coalition of Tampa and Big Cat Rescue
Back in 2001 (yes, that awful year when terrorist bombed the World Trade Center and money for animal causes completely dried up) Linda Hamilton called me and asked if I would donate passes to see Big Cat Rescue to her Spay Day walk. We had been doing this for years for St. Francis, and I knew Linda from when she worked with them, so we obliged. We've done it every year since as well.
Linda and her husband, Dr. Frank Hamilton, PhD, created Animal Coalition of Tampa and worked as part of the original No More Homeless Pets coalition (where Howie and Carole met in 2002). A.C.T. started Project Spay Day which holds monthly spay-neuter clinics, where a team of 7-9 veterinarians and a support staff of at least 50 other volunteers sterilizes from 100-150 cats in a few hours. Since 2006 Project Spay Day is based out of Animal Coalition Tampa (ACT) located at 502 North Gilchrist Avenue in Tampa.
Before 2006 the Spay Days were held at various veterinary clinics in Hillsborough County to make it more available to the caretakers. At 5:00 am all the cat lovers who cared for colonies of cats, and a few individuals who had trapped a cat, would arrive at the designated clinic with their traps full of feral cats to be fixed. They had to bring all of their own supplies, tents to set up in the parking lot for the staging area, and it was done by dozens of people who would store the stuff in their garages and then drive it to the location in their cars.
If there is one thing that seems to be ubiquitous about those who care for cat colonies, it is that they spend all of their money feeding and caring for cats. Their cars; not so much. So on the given day if someone's car broke down it may be the one carrying supplies that Spay Day couldn't do without. Linda told me that what they really needed was a trailer to store all of the tents and supplies in that could be hauled to the different clinics each month. That way it would all be together and they could spay and neuter more cats if they had everything they needed arrive on time.
Until 2003 I had to supplement Big Cat Rescue with funding from my real estate business because it couldn't pay its own bills. We were still reeling from 9/11/01 and at the time it was a huge commitment for me to make, but I personally bought a trailer that was big enough to have shelves built in and it could carry everything necessary to spay and neuter 100-150 cats in a day. I stuck Wildlife on Easy Street's logo on it, with the banner, "Tigers Helping Tabbies!" and figured it was good advertising for the sanctuary so I justify the cost. I told Linda what I'd done for her and she said, "...But we don't have a truck to pull it."
I couldn't donate a truck, but I drove one. It was a 1996 model Dodge Ram and it could haul the trailer, but that meant I had to get up each Spay Day and arrive at the different clinics all over the county by 5:00 am. Anyone who knows me, knows that I just don't do 5 am, but it was for the cats, so once a month I set an alarm and drove out in search of the new clinic so that I'd have time to maneuver the truck and trailer into position before other cars started arriving. I loved the mission of Spay Day but dreaded every single one of them.
NO ONE was happier than me when A.C.T. got their own clinic at 1719 W Lemon Street in Tampa, because they could do spays and neuters all week, every week and I didn't have to be the one to be sure their supplies arrived before the break of dawn!
They quickly outgrew the building and moved to the Gilcrest location, which is the one that burned.
Justin Boorstein was a volunteer at Big Cat Rescue since 2006. He went to vet school, graduated and got his first job as a veterinarian with Animal Coalition of Tampa in 2011. A year later he married our President, my daughter, Jamie Veronica. Now he works full time for A.C.T. and does relief work at other non profit animal care centers. He helps Dr. Wynn with our big cats and domestic cats at Big Cat Rescue on his days off.
To see a fun video of the life that he and Jamie share you have to see their wedding invitation video:
http://vimeo.com/41566377 You'll be bobbing to the music and have that song stuck in your head all day.