Shelter ConsultantMillion Cat Challenge & University of Florida Maddie's Shelter Medicine ProgramJacksonville, Florida
I live in Jacksonville Florida and have been here since 2002. I grew up in a military family and then married into the military so I have spent my entire life moving around. Jacksonville is where I’ve lived in the longest so I’m happy to now have a place that I can call home.
I work for the University of Florida’s Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program and Million Cat Challenge. I consult with public and private animal welfare organizations around the country to identify barriers to lifesaving, help them implement best practices and to share strategies on how to work smarter not harder. I specialize in community cat management, targeted spay/neuter and successful open adoption programs.
I started volunteering with a Weimaraner rescue organization in Dallas, Texas and as I would visit shelters to transfer dogs, I noticed how poorly the cats had it in every shelter. When I moved to Jacksonville I started volunteering with a local cat sanctuary and it soon consumed me. When my ‘real job’ was eliminated through corporate downsizing I was offered a position at First Coast No More Homeless Pets as their Program Director. FCNMHP is a high volume spay/neuter clinic whose mission was to end euthanasia in Jacksonville’s city shelters. FCNMHP’s success in Jacksonville lead to forming a new organization called Target Zero which is where I started consulting with other shelters around the country and that lead to my current role at UF.
I love seeing shelters that are struggling with overcrowding and high euthanasia implement the recommended strategies and see immediate positive results. The hardest part of my job is giving staff and leadership the courage to step outside of their comfort zone and overcome fears … once they do that they finally realize that what I’ve been saying isn’t ‘crazy’ and that it works! When they become the preachers to their neighboring shelters who are also struggling, that gives me a huge sense of accomplishment.
Community cat programs are definitely my passion! I can talk about cats all day long and am so lucky that my job allows me to do just that! I started the Feral Freedom program in Jacksonville in July 2008. It was a partnership between FCNMHP (the high volume s/n clinic) and our city shelter to transfer all community cats from the shelter (whether they were friendly or feral) to the clinic for spay/neuter, vaccinations and ear tip before returning them to their outdoor homes. Even though I was experienced in TNR I was scared out of my mind to run this program. I faced a lot of opposition from field staff (aka animal control officers) at the shelter and was repeatedly told that this program was going to fail and that we were doing an awful thing for the cats.
I’m happy to report that 11 years and 30,000+ cats later we know that people were talking from a place of fear and we’ve been able to bust those myths. It is now our culture that community cats do not enter the shelter and are instead taken directly to the s/n clinic for sterilization and returned to their outdoor home. Not only has this saved the lives of tens of thousands of cats, but it has allowed our shelter to focus its limited resources on those who truly need help.
Even though I grew up with dogs and cats, I always considered myself more of a dog person. I have a not so secret addiction to senior Chihuahuas. I currently have 6 mostly toothless misunderstood Chis that I’ve adopted from shelters around the country including my latest a 17 year old from Puerto Rico.
My other secret crush is donkeys… I just love them! I got to visit a shelter last month that had a sweet one!
Since starting my animal welfare career in 2008 I have always been in awe of Dr. Julie Levy from the University of Florida. Whenever I had the opportunity to work with her over the years, the hero worship continued. When I had the opportunity to become an official member of her team in 2017 I had to pinch myself! I still can’t believe how lucky I am to work with such an incredible mentor!
Visit MillionCatChallenge.org to learn more
Thanks for the interview, Cameron and all of the awesome resources you have shared and provided in the Maddie's Pet Forum community!
Follow Cameron or ask her questions below
Hi Cameron! I spoke to you last year when we initially joined MCC. Since last we spoke, we have partnered with two great spay/neuter clinics who are really helping us get our animals and cats in the community fixed, which was a major obstacle for us last year because we only had local vets to work with us and they could never give us enough s/n slots, so we gave s/n vouchers to probably half of our adopters. :( Now that we have overcome that obstacle, we really want to make a big push to do SVNR and TNR for the cats in our community. We definitely have the demand, and a lot of people are taking advantage of our public s/n transports, but we have a lot of poverty and working poor in our surrounding communities who just can't (or won't) pay for s/n. I went to a lot of cat sessions at the Expo, including the one of Monday with all the awesome MCC heroes. The problem is that we, like many other shelters and rescues, just don't have enough financial resources to meet the demand. It seems like all the big funders are just funding bigger organizations (who I understand have more animals than the little guys like us), but I'm just frustrated that we have come SO FAR in the last 18 months but still can't find enough funding. My only "complaint" from the Expo is that most of the presenters came from organizations that were well funded and staffed. What would you suggest for us little guys? Thanks and keep up the great work!