An artist’s rendering of the proposed new Alley Cat Advocates Community Cat Complex | Courtesy of Alley Cat Advocates

Alley Cat Advocates, Louisville’s Trap, Neuter and Return organization, has been offered a large building to rent from the city and is now raising funds to create a Community Cat Complex where it can better care for community cats.

The building, directly behind Louisville Metro Animal Services’ Animal House Adoption Center on Newburg Road, was used to house Public Works vehicles. The city offered it to Alley Cat Advocates as a long-term lease for a nominal fee. Being close to the adoption center will help the agency more efficiently manage its programs and work more closely with LMAS, said Karen Little, executive director of ACA.

The complex will also be on the same campus where LMAS is building its $11.5 million new facility, set to open later this year.

Right now, ACA uses the Kentucky Humane Society’s SNIP Clinic for spay and neuter surgeries, and local veterinarians for other medical services, such as surgeries. There is a part-time veterinarian on staff. But the new center will be large enough to house the organization’s offices as well as a surgical center.

The plan is to hire a veterinarian full time, as well as two veterinary technicians to assist the doctor and care for the animals.

Alley Cat Advocates tips the ears of cats that it has neutered. | Courtesy of Alley Cat Advocates

Alley Cat Advocates has been doing TNR services in Louisville for 20 years, working alongside LMAS the entire time. This partnership and location makes the process more official and efficient.

“We’ve been working with Metro Animal Services for all these years, recognizing that we could do our job better if we were in partnership with them, and they could do their jobs better if they were in partnership with us,” Little said. “Our goal is for there to be fewer cats, and their goal is to have fewer cats in the shelter. So it’s just a logical extension of both of our works.”

ACA will also provide all spay and neuter services for LMAS’ cats, as well as house some special needs cats for adoption through a hospice program. Right now, ACA uses foster care volunteers to house cats that need extra care and those whom it would be inhumane to send back outside. If those cats are housed at the facility where they can be seen, they might be able to be adopted, Little said. 

“So with their adoption center being right there, if a citizen were to come in and say, ‘You know I really want a special needs cat,’ or ‘My diabetic (cat) just died, and I’m really skilled at that and sympathetic to that,’ those adoption coordinators can say, ‘Alley Cat Advocates is right behind us, and they have four cats, two of whom are in kidney failure. So why don’t you walk over there?’ and then we would do an adoption for those cats. It provides an outlet for adoption that we don’t have right now.”

Volunteers help check in cats to be neutered. | Courtesy

Making a garage into a cat shelter is a costly endeavor. The organization needs to raise $800,000 to retrofit the interior of the building. But ACA has a head start: Pet Smart Charities pitched in with a $250,000 grant.

“Pet Smart Charities has been a firm supporter of our work in this community since 2010,” Little said. “When I spoke to them about this public-private partnership that we were hatching here in the community, they were all over it. They’re looking closely at us because that’s a big investment on their part, and they want to see if this kind of public-private partnership that I just described would work in other communities to help maximize efficiencies across the country.” 

With other donations, the organization has already raised $400,000 toward its goal.

Susan Sweeney Crum is on ACA’s board and is the chair of the fundraising campaign.

“Fifteen years ago, Alley Cat Advocates helped me round up and neuter a half-dozen or so cats that lived in our barn, producing litter after litter,” she said on the website. “Their help and guidance ensured a better future for our feline friends, who eventually warmed up to their ‘humans’ enough to let us love on them a little. When the opportunity arose to join the Alley Cat Advocates’ board, and then to chair this campaign, I was excited and happy to give back. Alley Cat Advocates is making our community the safest place for community cats to live.”

The organization now rents office space, which it will not have to pay for once it moves, and it will save money by not having to pay the SNIP Clinic or veterinarians. “It’ll be a resource shift,” she said.

In the new space, the organization hopes to be able to offer other services in the future, such as helping to build cat shelters for people who care for community cats and providing cat food for those who care for cats but have fallen on hard times.

Alley Cat Advocates cares for 3,000 to 4,000 cats per year, and receives more than 7,000 calls per year. In its 20 years, it’s spayed and neutered more than 45,000 cats. The organization also goes into neighborhoods to help when people don’t want cats on their property — in their gardens or on their lawn furniture, for example.

Volunteers work with cat owners and neighbors to ensure that the cats don’t upset people, which also helps ensure the cats aren’t harmed. 

Lisa Hornung

Lisa Hornung a native of Louisville and has worked in local media for more than 15 years as a writer and editor. Before that she worked as a writer, editor and photographer for community newspapers in Kansas, Ohio and Kentucky. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Georgia, and after a 20-year career in journalism, she obtained a master’s degree in history from Eastern Kentucky University in 2016.