It all began when Tampa cat lover Linda Hamilton encountered a feral cat prowling around her yard. After making several phone calls to local animal shelters and learning that there were few programs in place for the area's "free-roaming" population of cats and dogs, Hamilton got involved with the St. Francis Society, cofounded the Animal Coalition of Tampa and a local incarnation of No More Homeless Pets. Via ACT, she sponsored adopt-a-thons and spearheaded "Spay Days," a monthly volunteer-based trap-and-release spay/neuter program focusing on Hillsborough County's feral cat population.
"Cats living in the subtropics can have up to three litters in one year, and by the time a cat has had its third litter, the offspring from its first [litter] are already ready to reproduce," says Hamilton of the rapid growth of the area's feral cat colonies. (More than half of the 29,872 animals that were euthanized in Hillsborough County last year were cats.)
With support from local organizations and pet stores, and a hefty donation from Jack Talman of Talman Tank, Hamilton opened ACT's low-cost spay/neuter clinic in March 2006. In addition to its Spay Days efforts, ACT offers low-cost spay/neuter services at the clinic four days a week. The nonprofit also provides basic (and affordable) wellness exams and inoculations to Bay area pets, and accepts public assistance vouchers from the county that give qualified applicants the ability to get their pets sterilized for $10. For folks who lack both funds and the means to get to the clinic, ACT's "Neuter Scooter" pays weekly visits to several Hillsborough County sites, where the pets are picked up in the morning, taken to the clinic, sterilized and then returned to their waiting owners at the same site in the evening.