photos by // michael gleason photography
Pet overpopulation is a serious problem in America and results in scores of cats and dogs being put into cramped shelter facilities and healthy animals being euthanized. With the blight problem in Flint, the situation is exacerbated when cats take shelter in abandoned buildings. Roaming around neighborhoods, fighting, breeding and spraying, unaltered “community cats” not only tear at the heartstrings but also create issues for residents. The homeless dog situation here is not quite so dire, although there are community dogs on Flint’s north side. However, a solution to both cat and dog overpopulation is at hand at the new animal clinic, All About Animals Rescue (AAAR) at 507 W. Atherton Road.
The 501(c)(3) nonprofit was founded in Detroit in 2005. Its mission is simple: “No more homeless pets.” AAAR works with other nonprofits, such as Pets in Peril, Michigan Pit Bull Education, New Day for Strays, Shelter Animal Donations and Alley Cat Angels of America. Funding comes from donations, grants, fundraisers and end-of-life gifts.
All About Animals performs spay/neuter operations, vaccinations, dental care and some basic veterinary services that are high in both quality and volume, for cats and dogs. The organization works with pets, as well as community cats, although it is not a pet adoption facility. Spay/neuter surgeries are mainly by appointment, but the clinic offers wellness checks on a walk-in basis, three days a week. The surgery cost is $40 for cats and $80 for dogs, which is all inclusive, including pain meds. AAAR also has a state-of-the-art mobile clinic and a transport van that goes to Saginaw, Bay City, Lapeer, Owosso and more.
The clinic emphasizes the importance of having a regular full-service vet as well. Angela Roth, community cat certification trainer, states, “We are here with low-cost options to provide spay/neuter and basic services to help keep pets in their homes. But, pet owners really need a relationship with a full-service veterinarian too that will know their animal already if they get sick.”
The organization includes locations in Warren, Detroit and Auburn Hills; in December 2017 the Flint facility became the fourth location, after years of working toward establishing it. In the meantime, staff had been transporting animals from Flint to Warren for spay/neuter surgeries and returning them to their owners in Flint the day after surgery.
Roth got into animal rescue 24 years ago when she lived in Arizona. “I’ve loved cats forever,” she says. “I got my first cat when I moved out on my own, and soon began taking community cats in to get spayed and neutered.”
She describes how sterilization makes for a healthier cat, which in turn makes the community cat colonies less troublesome in urban areas. “If you get them fixed, there’s far less fighting and no mating, so the noise issues stop. The pungent smell from unaltered male cats spraying also goes away when they’re fixed, making for happier neighbors. These cats are resourceful and can live longer and happier lives outside if they are fixed. Getting them fixed young has many health benefits too!”
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals website, spaying and neutering animals cuts down on tumors and infections of the reproductive organs by up to 70 percent. Cats can have two or three litters a year. With an average of six kittens per litter, about 50 percent will die as kittens if born outside. The surviving kittens will be able to breed by four to five months of age. This can make the cat colony get out of control quickly if they are not fixed.
When Roth moved from Phoenix to Flint, she was a volunteer teacher at the Humane Society. In Flint, she first lived in the Metawanee Hills neighborhood, where there were several community cats. She used humane traps for securing cats to take them to get fixed, then returned them to the colony.
“It had a noticeable effect,” she says. “My neighbors were asking if what I was doing was the reason there were fewer homeless cats and no more kittens being born homeless.”
“These cats are resourceful and can live longer
and happier lives outside if they are fixed.”
Roth teaches a training workshop for community cat caretakers on the third Sunday of every month from 2 to 4:30 p.m. at AAAR’s facility. The classes cover trapping, feeding, getting the cats fixed, shelters for the winter, working with neighbors, basic cat health and more. Caretakers can have community cats fixed for only $25, and each cat will receive a free rabies vaccination. So far about 80 people have gone through the program in Flint and over 3,500 in Warren.
“In the class I will teach you everything you need to know so you can be a confident champion for the cats in your area,” Roth says. “There have been many failed alternatives people tried over the years from stopping feeding them, to removing them, killing them and more. None of these work, because it leads to the ‘vacuum effect.’ More cats will come in to fill the void. What does work, is getting them fixed and returning them to the area.”
AAAR has four veterinarians and nine techs. Other veterinarians come in on a temporary basis. “These veterinarians are truly specialists in spay/neuter,” Roth says. “They are renowned for their high quality and efficiency. The incision is tiny resulting in faster recovery. Cats stay overnight, while dogs go home the same day. They have a very low complication rate. It’s poetry in motion to watch them work.”
Roth reports that the clinic performs about 60 surgeries per day currently. They recently did 500 free community cat sterilizations thanks to grants. The clinic has performed more than 4,000 surgeries to date. The vets and techs have been sent to special training by the Humane Alliance in North Carolina.
“We are getting there! In the mid-90s over 12 million pets were euthanized in shelters,” Roth says. “Now, that number is less than 3 million. Spay/neuter is at the heart of getting to no more homeless pets.”
Do you want to help AAAR continue its mission? To make a donation or become a community cat caretaker, please call 810-780-4978 or email [email protected]