Episode 103 – Sterling “TrapKing” Davis

103 Sterling _TrapKing_ Davis_FB

103 Sterling _TrapKing_ Davis_FB

The founder of TrapKing in Atlanta, GA is Sterling Davis, a well-traveled Veteran who loves to entertain people with his music & enjoys interacting with all people. He’s always had a soft spot for all animals but there is just something special about cats and the way he connects with them. The work he’s doing to not only save the lives of cats but to educate the public about spay/neutering and overpopulation is incredible and we hope you’ll tune in to hear his story and be as inspired as we were!

 

“Welcome to the Professionals in Animal Rescue podcast, where our goal is to introduce you to amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved with animal rescue. This podcast is probably sponsored by Doobert.com. Doobert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Now on with our show.

 Sterling Davis is a cat enthusiast, who founded Trap King in Atlanta, Georgia. His love for all animals, but especially cats, has led him to helping out a local animal shelter where he was eventually promoted to a TNR outreach position. This is where he started to realize he could do more to impact the lives of the cats in his community and surrounding area. Through education and talking to people, his hope is to change the stereotypes, of not only men in cat rescue, but to bridge the gap in communication between black communities and animal organizations.

 Hey, Sterling, Thanks for coming on today. Hey, thanks for having me. Tell me more about you. How did you become to know, to be known as the Trap King? Well, it’s kind of a funny story, because I was, uh I’ve always been into cats and animals, even at a young age. Uh, I was, I grew up with a lot of, in a lot of abuse and abusive households, so cats were kind of my getaway. Uh, I felt like I didn’t have a voice in my situation with abuse. And that’s kind of similar to what I feel like cats go through, they’re the voiceless. So, you know, fast forward to later on in my life, I was actually just doing music, rapping and going on tour. When I was a, I was on the way to go on tour with a rapper named TechNine and a friend of mine Cara Benton. And in between that time, before I went on tour, I was trying to just find something to occupy myself, as far as time, before I went on tour. And I saw on Craigslist, uh, shelter, a local shelter where they needed somebody to come scoop litter and help with the cats. I was like, I love cats. Let me go do that for a couple of months before I go on tour, and so that’s what I did. I ended up going to the shelter and they were so surprised, so shocked to see a man, a black man that was so much into cats that I didn’t, I didn’t know it was that rare, but I started to see how rare I was in this world, in this environment.

 And so they would ask me, “Hey, you know, can you just stay? Can you, can you stay here? I think you would be really helpful to the rescue mission. You could get different people involved and it’ll probably help out.” And at first I was like, No, I’m not. I’m not missing this tour, like I want to go on this tour really bad. And I was starting to finally get to a place. I really wanted to be with music, so I didn’t want, I didn’t want to miss that tour, but within that time it was, it was an easy sale. I was, I mean, they were able to convince me. They didn’t have to say much because I saw it. I saw the impact. And communities with people, the way people were responding to me, dealing with cats. A lot of young boys didn’t think that it was cool or, you know, they had to have dogs or puppies, but a guy who got to have a cat. So seeing me, I could see some of that change in turn, you know, change some people’s minds. So I decided to stay, actually called up my buddies, on tour, after they made fun of me, I was gonna say. They said,” You’re doing what?” Yeah, What are you doing? Like even some of my rap guys, that I did videos with, that I was calling them, like, “Hey, can you do a video for me? They like, cool. Yeah, and I’m like that this is not gonna be rap, like we’ll catch some cats. They like, “Well, you done really went off the deep end this time Sterling, like really? We always knew you was a little weird, but now, now you’ve really gone there.

 So that’s how, that’s how I got started in a rescue because before that, I don’t even know rescue. I didn’t even know. I always loved cats, always loved animals. I have been a vegetarian since I was 12 years old, but I never knew the rescue world. I never knew that TNR existed or anything. So, working for that shelter, they eventually, I went well, uh, and trained with Best Friends and a lot of other organizations that, you know, teaching me how to do TNR and how to run a community outreach program. So with that, as soon as I learned, soon as I heard you know, coming from music, trap music, you have a, that’s a genre of rap, trap music. So as soon as I heard Trap, Neuter, Return, I was like, Wow, that’s, that’s crazy because I could probably get everybody into rap into TNR, if I use that somehow, if I go with that. And that’s how I came up with Trap King. That was like Trap King would grab the attention of a demographic that’s not involved. That demographic that loves trap rap. I’m the Trap King and this is TNR, so it was like a way to just introduce that to a world that just was completely unaware of it, because even now I go to a lot of black communities, I go in they’re starting to recognize and see me. But before they had no interest in it and didn’t know what TNR was, similar to me. Even though I loved cats, I never knew what TNR was. I never knew that people actually were doing it before I was born. So that’s it.

 That is really cool. I mean, I guess I didn’t know there was a genre called Trap, Trap Rap. That’s what you said, Trap music? Yeah, yeah, Trap music. And it’s like a tough edgy, is a tough, edgy music of former rap music and it’s popular, especially in the South. It’s spent, I mean, really most people in rap will say, the trap music started in the South. So me being in Atlanta and having that to fall back or have it, having that grab people’s attention, it was almost it was too simple. I remember sitting at the Best Friends conference, listening to the Jackson Galaxy talk, and I was sitting there listening to him and thinking, I need a logo that looks like, uh, like a tough, edgy Hello Kitty or something like. I remember thinking of that, like, I need something with some type of logo like that, and that’s how I thought of the logo, is sitting there listening to Jackson talk at a Best Friend’s concert. Best Friends Convention in Atlanta.

 That’s really cool, and your logo is really unique. I mean, people need to check it out on Facebook or on your trapkinghumane.org website because it’s ah, it’s a silhouette of a cat that’s been ear tipped, and it’s got a little crown on him. Yeah, Thank you. I really, that was, I’m not a, I’m not a super creative guy with drawing. So that was really, like one of the agencies I have, came up with. I’m really proud of that one. And that people like it too. I’m glad that you noticed the ear tip. It’s the main thing. Always tell people, make sure you explain the ear tip when you buy a shirt. Make sure you explain what that ear tip means. No, I think that’s really cool, cause you’ve incorporated it into the logo. I see lots of logos for different rescues and that, and they don’t always, particularly in cat rescue, they don’t always incorporate the ear tip in some. I’m really excited to see that you did. Yeah, Yeah. Uh, I love it and try to put that as the main thing. I want the TNR to the forefront. Make it just like in, ah, music, when I was working on music. One of the main things you want to do is get your music to cross genres. To get other people, other demographics that normally probably wouldn’t listen to your music to listen to your music. And, uh, in a lot of ways what I want TNR to do, because TNR has been just exclusive, in a sense, it’s all the women have only done it. That’s the first thing I noticed. The black community and men just, were not engaged enough or aware, and even people like myself that love cats, so many of them still have no idea what TNR is or how they can help. And that’s what I really love about your mission is that you’ve taken it beyond just yourself now and trying to help bridge the gap in communities. And as you said, it’s been stereo-typically, has been very female-dominated, very Caucasian, female-dominated, and you’re unique.

So now when you go into these communities, people must come in and ask you lots of questions. Oh, yeah, Yeah, I get all types of questions. But if I do it, I do it because I don’t mind being one coming from music and entertainment. I don’t mind the pull of the attention of it. A lot of people in rescue, usually, most cat people, aren’t people people. So, you know, I’ll rather sit over here and trap by myself and do this, but I don’t want to be bothered. With me, I pull up in the community, my music is kind of loud. My van has cats all over it. You not gonna miss this van when I pulled her in. You’re going to say, “OK, this guy’s got to do something with cats”, you know that as soon as you see my van. So I want people to, actually, I want the kids to run up like it’s the ice cream truck. Like,” Hey, what are you doing in this?” That’s something that’s happening now when I pull in the neighborhood and the music is loud and cats on the van. Kids are almost running up to me like the ice cream truck. They want to know what I’m doing. Why I’m doing it. And if there’s any theaters in the community, then they see the van and they come out and even the people that aren’t happy with the cat, they’ll come out. I draw all that attention, but I like it because it gives me the chance to speak on it.

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 No, I was just gonna say, What do you tell the kids and people? I mean, they obviously, like you said, you’re kind of coming into a community and everybody notices your van and you, and like, What are you doing, right? So how do you educate them in a, in a simple way, as to the impact that you’re making. Well, the biggest, the biggest thing is to explain, is to stay open-minded. What I’ve learned with working with other people, a lot of people don’t understand. I don’t know what TNR is and especially the children. Children won’t necessarily understand. So I try to give everyone a glimpse of what will happen first, if this isn’t done. You know, give them a little back story. Like these cats, overpopulate. Two can become eight, eight can become 16 and then 32. They could just continue to reproduce litters. Once they reproduce like that, then it doesn’t matter if you feed or not, they’re gonna fight over resources and that causes ah, the overpopulation is spread. Disease is harmful for the community and is harmful for them, even if you help them.

 And that the only answer to that is you catch them, you put them down. Euthanasia. TNR is basically humane population control. It’s the most effective way. So with this, you could control the population and you can stop the spread of disease without euthanizing cats. So it’s not, it’s not as, not inhumane and a lot of our vets, you know, to be honest, a lot of vets didn’t go to school for years to take out a species. So it’s not something that people want to do on a grand scale. Euthanize the cat. So TNR is the answer to that. Trap, Neuter, Return, you could, even for the people that don’t like cats, they can understand. And I’m able to explain to them that this will, this helps keep cats numbers down. They don’t overpopulate as much, and then new cats come into the area, you fix cats to keep them out. New cats coming into the area, they’ll be, okay, these cats are fixed. You know, I can’t mate here. It’ll be a fight over the food. I’ll just keep it moving. And that’s usually how, that’s usually how it happens. No, and it is interesting.  I mean most people don’t realize that one of the most widely euthanized animals in a shelter, is kittens because of just the overpopulation. And like you said, TNR is the humane way to control the population so that we don’t have to do that.

 It’s cheaper as far as tax dollars too. I mean, if we were, if we were to pay for those euthanasia shots with that, that’s an expensive deal. And did we’ve what I learned with my training with Best Friends is that that’s been tried before, has been tried. But cats, you know, they find a way. They still find a way. So you take an expensive extermination method and it costs a ton of money, and then it still doesn’t even solve it. Yeah, they still find a way, so the best way is to control it, control the population, and then with that, at the same time, it helps with rodents. Keeps a certain balance in the community to. Yeah. So usually I spend a lot of time explaining that to children, people and the HOA’s and ah, apartment managements, apartment complex managers. Spend a lot of time explaining that, but they usually get it. They usually get it, and I’m pretty persistent. And have to give them that look like, you don’t wanna mess with me, listen to what I’m saying. Yeah, you might wanna listen. I’ve even gone as far with HOA’s and apartment complexes. I told them that with, because I was getting a tough time and I was letting them know far,as business goes, as you see, the trend for people is to go green. People want to go green with how to eat. A couple of documentaries on Netflix and boom, everybody wants to go green and go vegan and that. And I’ve told apartment complexes, this trend will carry on in the way people live as well. You’ll have. You’ll be able to sell you’re, uh, apartment complex. Or sell your tenants something better because they’ll want to know that the place that they live is handling the animals in a humane way. If not, then that’s something bad. You could lose the sale off of that. You could lose a tenant off of that because a lot of people are gonna want to go green just the way they eat green. And that’s gonna become to be a major thing. So get ahead of the curve, get ahead of the curve. Don’t wait to have someone like me force you to do it or don’t wait until it’s on the news, and it’s really bad or you look bad. And just from a selling standpoint, go ahead and get out ahead of the curve now and start this. Let this get this process going to your complex or your community. Help me out a lot.

 Yeah, no, I love that approach because it’s something I’m always telling people is. Think about it from a business perspective, right? And that’s what you’re doing is you’re appealing to them saying, Listen, you’re your own apartment complex, you need tenants, you need to attract tenants and you’re going to attract people, based on the trends that are happening in our society. And as you mentioned going green is more and more, people are understanding now that the vegetarian lifestyle, the plant-based protein lifestyle, is a much better way for us for, you know, animals and for the planet. I try to bring that point up a lot because this is, I mean, usually with people, if you could bring it. Like I said, people don’t like, some people don’t like cats. If you could explain it to them, on a business standpoint is definitely helpful.

 So now what does that, what does your average TNR week look like? I mean, this sounds like it’s become your full-time passion now. Oh, yeah, this is, this is my life. I live out of my van doing this. I mean, uh, this is what I’m going to do. So average week for me, usually when I get up in the morning, I try to get emails and social media. A lot of people send me stuff through email or through social media, my instant messenger, and ask me about cats, asking for help. And that’s usually, I’ll start today, responding to emails, responding to the messages and post on social media. And then I start the day off with feeding my cat. Uh, my TNR cats. I’ll usually have cats with me that are healed, that I’ve done TNR for. So I’ll check on them and, uh, probably get out returns and cats. I usually do that early and try to trap a little later when everything is calm down. But in an average week, oh boy, I could get at least 100 calls, e-mails. Wow! Yeah, it’s always a lot because a lot of it isn’t just TNR, a lot of it is “Hey, what can I do?” Some people are asking me to come out, and then some people are saying, “I saw what you were doing. Can you just tell me how to do it, and I’ll do it? I want to do it”. And that’s, that’s what I love the most to hear is that I’m not even trying, necessarily get you out here. But I saw you doing it. And I know I could do that. And that’s really what I want people to understand that what I did was, you know, there’s something everybody could do. I mean, it’s passion, it’s love. If you love cats, love animals, you can do this. This can be done. I pretty much did it with nothing. Yeah. Yeah, you didn’t, you didn’t have any experience. Like you said, you weren’t a rescuer. Lifelong rescuer.

 I mean, this is something you kind of stumbled into. And I’m sure you remember the first trap that you ever had to set. Oh, my goodness. The first trap, the first is like, I remember a few moments. I remember the first time I set a trap when I was out training and I was you know, when I set it, was like I remember thinking are you going, because this is weird, I wouldn’t imagine that they would go inside of this trap. But they did. And that first night, I went out training and I think the woman, the women that were training me, think we called, like, 10 or 12 cats that night, and I just, it was before I knew it. It was like just hearing the sound of the trap just clink. Just a little drop I was like, is that, did we catch another one, like, I can’t believe it. So it’s like, you catch that you feel like a bounty hunter out there, but it’s for good. You know, every time you hear one of those traps closed that you go, you don’t you’re saving lives. You rescue and catch, you preventing the litter, that wasn’t gonna be able to be taken care of, taken care of properly. So it’s like it was a big deal that that first, that first trap. That was just as big as my first return because, of course, that’s, I know people in rescue, you gotta know that the first time you return a cat, that you feel like it can be friendly or maybe adopted out. So that first, that first trap and return and that first cat. We’re both very, very big deals with me. 

Yeah. Any idea how many you know, traps, or how many, you know, spay/ neuters you’ve taken care of now, over the years? It’s in the thousands, I know that. Especially, especially from when I started working with a company called Lifeline and Best Friends. When I was working with them because Best Friends provided a van for me. A big old white work van. I had unlimited traps and that when I was working with them, so I was able to, I would just stay out all night. Eventually they had to tell me to stop. I was because I don’t have much of a life outside of this. I love it. So I would just be out all night, three in the morning, just trapping. So I would have the vet and the clinic would open at eight in the morning and I would have just like 20 cats lined up, with the paperwork, ready to go. It’s funny. They’re like, Sterling, we still have to, we still have to service the community. There’s paying clients that are gonna come back here. We can’t work all your cats, all day. So just slow down and get other people to do it. Yeah, get some sleep. I was like, I’m going, somebody say, Come on, I be like, I’m on the way, I’m on the way. Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s very awesome.

 And, you know, I mean, one of things that I just think it’s really cool is that your, you know, your tagline. Tell everybody kind of what your tagline is. Oh, yeah, “You don’t lose cool points for compassion.” You know, that came off naturally because that’s something that I wanted to explain to men, and especially in the black community, is we the men in the black community deal with a lot of hype or masculinity so much. When they was just seeing me with cats, my friends would always say, “Man, why don’t you get a dog? Why don’t you have a dog? Why you want cats? But I’m like, Why? Why would it matter? Why does it matter if I have a cat, I like cats. A lion is the king of the jungle. How masculine is that? Like you go, Why do I have to have a dog? Like so I wanted to. You know, it just rolled off my tongue, kind of, “You don’t lose cool points for compassion”. I would have so many mothers that reached out to me and said that their son was getting made fun of because he liked cats or he’s a little different. And, you know, I wanted to change that. I wanted to change that narrative as far as, you’re a guy, you have to have a dog. And then if you’re a girl, you can have the kittens. That’s ridiculous. That’s like giving water a gender. Yeah. No, I mean, I’m an equal opportunity animal lover. We’ve got four cats and a dog. And you know, my technology software, Doobert, was named after a cat of mine. And so I’m with you. I’m gonna start using your tag line now that you know, “You don’t lose cool points for compassion” because I really, I think that’s a really cool way to do it. Um because you’re right. We do get caught up in, men should do this and women should do that. And really, when it comes to animals, it’s all about compassion.

 All about compassion. And that’s something I’m, the compassion portion of it I love because I think that can bring people together. I think we can learn a lot from the cats and just a rescue community coming together. I’ve been able to meet so many different people all over the world. I mean, my friend Samantha Martin from Amazing Acro Cat. I love her. Adam Maya, Catman of West Oakland, is like my best friend now. Like, I’ve met some amazing people, uh, just dealing with rescue and it’s not, you know, it’s not race-related. It’s not sex-related. It’s just unity. It’s compassion. Is a bunch of compassionate, strong people meeting and wanting to work together. And I like that about rescue. I want to show that portion of rescue more. Yeah, I couldn’t agree with you more.

 So tell us about what’s, what’s coming up next for you. I mean, I want to hear more about this, Sons of Anarchy meets TNR. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So one of the things that I’ve noticed I have friends that, a lot of friends, that graduated from college and they were in fraternities and sororities. And one of the things that I realized with the fraternities and sororities is that even after a person graduates the school, they’re still with that sorority or fraternity. They still volunteer, and they still pay dues. So I wanted to, I wanted to transition that process over to TNR rescue and have what would be something similar to a TNR fraternity and sorority, based around rescue. So, and I wanted it to be something cool like, Sons of Anarchy. You know what I mean? Like leather jackets and the patches for the lives that you’ve saved and things. That we could have different contests, but different perks. A lot of people join fraternities and sororities for perks for the, you know, job connections, networking. And I want to build that type of thing around TNR rescue. Because if I could get people engaged and then offer different perks, such as, you know, like I said, we could go out on different cruises. You can network with different people that’s in rescue, but also doing other things around, you know, as far as entrepreneurship. So it’s a lot. I want to create a world with that. And in a fraternity and sorority, I think, and do that. But people that’s just not all the way completely interested in TNR or doing certain parts of it. Give them an area where they could help, in multiple ways. Show them where they can help out. Because TNR is one way that, then you can foster. You could foster bottled babies, you could adopt. You could just help rehabilitate. You know. 

One of the, one of the things that I’m, another thing that I’m working on now is a holistic transitional housing for people and cats. So this basically we’re building tiny houses, a place called Purpose in House, out here in Atlanta. And it’s a project where the house has been there for a while, but they haven’t been able to get a lot of traction. Now we’re starting to build tiny houses around the main property. We’re gonna build tiny houses, the people and even tinier houses for cats. So it’ll be basically homeless people and homeless cats transitioning. And with that, some of those people, there is transitional houses. I could get them jobs, by just caring and just caring for animals. If you want to help rehabilitate, if you want to just foster. So I’m trying to connect the two. And that’s another thing I’m trying to do is get people that aren’t or wouldn’t necessarily be involved in cat rescue. I want to make them aware and show them how they could help, how they could be effective. Like the cats or not. You feel good to be effective. Yeah. No, I love, I love everything about what you’re talking about. I mean, you’ve taken this and you’ve gone from just, you know, helping out at a shelter to TNR too.

 Now you’ve got this platform to engage the community and change the stereotypes. And you’re moving, moving into other things. Like, I love everything about this because that’s what we need is more passionate people like yourself, that recognize that they can have an impact and then they bring everybody else along. We need more leaders like you. I appreciate it. I really appreciate it. Growing up in heavy abuse, I always felt like I wanted to live a life of service.  I wanted to do it through my music. I wanted to use my music. Just send a message. It’s a lot harder to do that in music. I mean, you know, you either cool or you’re not. It’s kind of tough with music, but I always wanted to, to live a life of service in that sense and make a positive impact on the world. And that’s why I was able to leave that tour. Go and say, “Hey, Okay, I’m doing this. This is, this is going to change a lot. This is really gonna make a difference. I could stand onstage to be cool, but this is gonna make a difference. Really. Get people to see it. Yeah, when one decision that you made to skip a tour has just changed the entire course of your life and that’s that’s that’s really amazing. I mean, this has been amazing to talk to you. I really love hearing about all the stuff you’re doing.

 Is there anything else you want to mention before we wrap things up? I wanted to say I have a book. A children’s book that is out right now, on Amazon called Marvin Trap King for a Day. And if you get a chance, I want people to look at that. It’s on Amazon right now, but I wanna, I want to get more into that and use that. Just hopefully get in touch with Cub Scouts. A TNR badge. I think, for the boy and girl scouts would be kind of cool. So I wanna put that book out there and put that little tidbit out there that I would really love to work with the Cub Scouts, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America. I think a TNR badge would be awesome. So I want to say that and I want to leave on this note. In rescue, in rescue, right now, one of the biggest issues that we face is compassion fatigue, compassion fatigue and burnout. That burnout and compassion fatigue, it doesn’t come, it’s not coming from the animals. It’s coming from one another. From what we do and say to one another, or from what we don’t do or don’t say to want one another. And I just want to say remember, be good to each other. We have to be good to each other. We were on the same team and there is enough cats and everybody needs help, just enough room for everybody. So please be nice to one another. I see a lot of rescues where we could be very overly critical. Everybody in rescues, I feel like they’re doing their all. There’s no money in this. Nobody’s getting paid. So it’s about passion. So if you, if you look to another rescue person and you tell him they’re doing something wrong or you’re not as nice, it can, it can be hurtful. So let’s just make sure that we’re doing, we’re doing well towards each other to one another, not just the cats, but to each other, because we have to be able to keep ourselves saying, to help the cats. So I’m very, very well stated, and I couldn’t agree with you more. I mean, we need to support each other and realize that we’re all having a common cause for the animals. And we need to work together because that’s how we’re gonna, that’s how we’re gonna make a bigger impact, so. Well, Sterling, thank you so much for coming on the program today. I really enjoyed speaking with you. Thank you. Thanks for having me so much. 

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