Julie Brommer knew she would not be able to establish a sustainable community cat program from 200 miles away without finding other people dedicated to the mission. For the past year, Julie has been speaking with people to learn more about their interests and partnering with them to find “the right” volunteer activity. Julie hopes her grassroots efforts on Chincoteague could be the beginning of a blueprint to building a reliable network of animal advocates and needed resources in a community essentially bringing animal “rescue” to the place where it is most successful… the animals’ homes. Tune in to hear about Julie’s method of connecting people and saving cats.
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Welcome to the professionals and Animal Rescue podcast. Where goal is to introduce you two amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved with animal rescue. This’ll Podcast is probably sponsored by do bert dot com. Do Bert 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, Julie noticed the increasing cat population on Chincoteague Island, Virginia, and she wanted to find a way to help. Today, Julie Brummer is an advocate for those without a voice on the founder of Shankar Take Island Community Cats. Their goal is to establish a sustainable community cat program through T and our public education and the monitoring of cat colonies. Getting the public involved is just as important as the education and something Julie takes tremendous pride in. Hey, Julie. Thanks for coming on. Hi, Chris. Thanks for inviting me. So tell us about you tell us about shrink a tick islands. If I said that, right, give us a little bit of background on how you got into all of this. So my husband and I have one cat that we rescued from Shin Kitty Island. Her name is oyster, and my career is in pharmaceuticals, where I spent over 17 years working in a quality role to make sure products are safe and effective before being distributed to the public, I also held compliance rolls, making sure that we were following the regulations and processes that were in place. When we weren’t following them, I would investigate why and what went wrong and find a way to fix it. Some background is very science based oriented. So you’re in pharmaceuticals. You got a background in science. How did you come about doing tnr? Yeah, so, um t and R wa something that I was looking into. I really took some time to try and educate myself. About what? Trap? Neuter in return waas and what community cut programs were about. I’d say my inspiration was visiting the alley cat allies, Atlantic City Boardwalk Cats Project. In 2017 I attended my first animal welfare conference. It was the best friends National conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Okay. And they offered the opportunity to visit the Atlantic City Boardwalk Cats project that Alec had allies had implemented over 10 years ago. Now being able to walk along the boardwalk and see the shelters and the feeding stations and the volunteers who have taking care of these cats year after year through all kinds of weather, including Hurricane Sandy. Hello. It was very inspiring and it really gave me the courage. Thio, step up and go after the dream that I had Thio help cats and people on Chincoteague Island. Now, have you always been a cat person? Like did you grow up with cats? I mean, tell us a little bit about how your love of animals. Yeah, So I have always been a cat person. I aunt actually had community cats at the time. They weren’t really considered that they were out cats that she would feed on her porch and we would visit a lot because I love Thio, play with the kittens and spend time with the cats. At one time, my brother was there with us and her dog actually snipped at my brother and left a little bit of Ah, um a bite mark on his cheek. And so that really scared me with dogs. Some cats really became my thing. Sure, Yeah. No, I love cat. We have four cats and a dog. So we’re, you know, equal, equal lovers of animals in our household. Nice. Yeah. So? So now what I think is so amazing about you is I mean, you found the the need, right. And then you just kind of started diving in. So tell us about tell us a little bit more about Chincoteague Island. It seems like a very unique place. So how did you come about noticing that there’s a need for community? Can’t program there. So my husband and I have been visiting Chincoteague Island for years. We enjoy birdwatching, and our favorite time of the year to go down is during the spring. In the fall, when the birds are migrating And over the years, I saw the cat population decline, most likely due to a nonprofit group out of Northern Virginia coming Thio perform weekend T and our clinics on the island. So there was a or there is a very dedicated cat caregiver on the island who has committed herself thio caring for abandoned kittens and worked with um, the nonprofit group out of Northern Virginia to organize these large t and our clinics which held twice a year for, um for a few years, I think four years or five. So how big is shrinking? Big Island? Chincoteague is about seven miles long and about a mile at its widest point on any estimates of the number of community cats. It, uh, are making that home. We’re still working on getting that estimate. I’m looking forward, Thio doing our first cat count. Okay, Sometime this year, I learned about a group that is creating a process for counting cats. It’s very similar to bird counts, and I’ve obtained their information about how they are going about those cat counts in the Washington D C area. And I hope Thio, try that out in Chincoteague sometime this year. Very meat. So now you got into this. Obviously went to Atlantic City. You kind of saw what they were doing. Tell us about your first experience. I’m guessing the first trap that you had to do that must have been quite something special. It waas it really. Waas and I jumped into it with not a lot of solid resource is Okay, so I scheduled our first tee and our weekend clinic for last June I knew I wanted to find a way to help the cats and the people. And I knew I wanted Thio establish a sustainable community cat program because what I was seeing Waas cats on the island where they hadn’t been for a number of years. Because those prior t and our weekend clinics worked. The challenge was that the colonies and the efforts weren’t sustained. So I knew that was the direction that we really needed to go to stabilize the cat population on the island. And at the time, I had never trapped a cat myself and I had no equipment. So I was really relying on other organizations and experienced trappers thio sort of show up, trap the cats for us. Okay. And, uh, that’s really what happened. So we were able to borrow traps from three different organizations giving us about 50 traps. And I had Yeah, it was very exciting. And I had some experience. Trappers come out One person, actually, from Pennsylvania, where I live. She brought her drop trap and we had a mother and a younger volunteer. I think he may have been about nine or 10. He was very excited. Thio help out with the drop trap. And so the two of them captured the majority of the cats that we trap. That weekend, they became, ah, dynamic duo. With the drop trap, we were able to trap all of the cats at one of the colonies that we were focusing on. That’s really cool. Now, what did you guys use for bait? And I know that’s one of the things that everybody always wants to know. Mackerel. Did you okay? Very smelly. Stinky fish? Yeah. The colony that we focused on was somewhat socialized. They were used to having people around and by withholding the food for a couple of days. They were pretty hungry on DDE. Not too afraid of going into you. The traps, Thio eat. So know how did the community receive this? I mean, did everybody say this is great idea? We should be doing this. I mean, what were the challenges that you face? So so far, we’ve been blessed by the community’s response groupie. Our grassroots effort. Yeah. Um, in about a year, our Facebook group C I Community Cats has over 530 members from across the United States. It’s been really good to see the people’s interest in helping the cat’s on the island. Uh, I’m not sure if you’re aware, but Shrink Atiq is well known for the wild ponies due to the book Misty of Chincoteague, which is written by Marguerite Henry. And so that story and some other things really attract tourists to the island. People come back year after year. Cool. So when they visit the island, it’s really hard to miss the cats. Okay? Actually, my brother visited one time, and when he came home, he called me up and said Shingen teats great. But what’s the deal with the cats and the ducks? There’s cats and ducks everywhere, he said. Yeah, that’s a problem. Yeah, cats and ducks always crossing the street. Yeah, no. And that’s something that that’s often how the general public learns about community cat programs as they see the stray cats, and they see a lot of them. It’s a great opportunity to educate them on what the problem is and what they can do to help. Exactly wellness natural pet food is for pets in their parents, who believe, as we do, that good nutrition and healthy food are the building blocks of a long, happy life created by a nutritionist, veterinarians and animal lovers. Wellness recipes provided an ideal balance of nature’s finest ingredients. Ah, one. This recipes include lean meats, whole grains and fruits and veggies with no wheat, corn or soy, and no edit artificial flavors, colors or preservatives from head to tail. Wellness is nutrition with a purpose. You can learn more at wellness pet food dot com and follow them on Facebook and Instagram at At Wellness Pet Food. Some curious if somebody else is listening to this. I mean, I think one of one of things is really great about your story is that it’s not like you started out as a vet and knew exactly what you’re doing. You just saw, need wanted help animals and kind of jumped in feet first. So what? What would you tell somebody? What guidance could you give somebody that is listening to the same? You know what? We need to step up and do something in our community as well, Really. What I’d say is is, just do it. If you have the passion and the drive, just take that next step and get it started I, um, knew that a Facebook group would be really valuable to get the word out. Ah, what I didn’t. What I wasn’t aware of is how well it would connect people to help other people. When I started the Facebook group, I was aware that we’d be able to connect with compassionate people around the Virginia area, but I didn’t expect it. Thio, reach, have the reach that see I community cats had We have members along the East Coast and from the Midwest, and some of the members are even active, are very active. So just last week we had volunteers from New Hampshire come to visit the island. And prior to coming down, they organized a cat food drive for the Xingu ti cats. And so when they came down this more recent time, they brought us several bags of cat food and supplies. So it was very rewarding to see that people who care about the island and care about the community and care about cats are willing to step up and and do their part. I’ll be it. It’s a small part, however, if everybody who has that compassion wants to be involved, all of those small parts add up, and it’s really that’s a really well, we’re seeing on Shank a Teague, and it’s so exciting. Yeah, I think that’s a really good point. Julie’s just step up and do something just just like you did. And, yeah, it’s gonna be a little bit scary and intimidating. But I think as you found, the animal rescue community is very welcoming and we want to help each other. Even if we don’t live in the same city or state. There’s plenty of people out there that would help you give you advice, guidance and even helped get you supplies. They dio and they will show up. If you aren’t afraid, Thio ask, and things will come together. Yeah, I know that. And I think you’re a prime example of that, and I think it’s amazing what you’ve done. Any idea now how many can’t see of spayed or neutered? We spayed and neutered 100 cats that’s also in six months. Wow, yes. So last year, um, the nonprofit group that had been active on the island from Northern Virginia had a grant from Alley cat allies, and so I waas volunteering with them and taking meeting minutes for their board meetings and trying Thio sell them on the idea that if they give me funding, I can spay and neuter cats on Chincoteague. And they agreed. So I organized and held the June clinic and it was very successful. And they said You have the entire grant. Use the money Oppa’s fast as you can Well, that’s that is going to say is What is it? What is the biggest challenges at finding low cost? A neuters at finding veterinarians? It’ll work with you. Or what’s the biggest challenge for a shrink Atid Island in the Eastern Shore in general? That is the overall challenge. There are no low cost spay neuter facilities, not even to mention high volume ones. So it is very challenging. And I believe one of the reasons why the nonprofit group out of Northern Virginia hasn’t been back in a few years was because the vet clinic on the island actually closed. And so the last large T and our weekend event that they had, they had to bring in a mobile clinic. Although they had the resource is to do it, it waas. You know that an extra resource that wasn’t necessarily accounted for. And and it made it a really challenge. So that was the first requirement that they had for me. When I started asking about their help to spay and neuter cats on Chincoteague, it was really to find a vet clinic where we would be able to perform the surgeries. Yeah, Yeah, That’s definitely one of those things that you kind of gotta have, right, so you could catch the cats. But you got have somewhere to take him and somebody to work with. Exactly. So what does what does an average week look like for you? Now you still get your day job, and this sounds like it’s probably like a nights and weekends job. It is. It is. So I spend my 40 hours minimum working in my career field and then fill the rest of my time with C I Community cats for 2019. My board who we’ve assembled but haven’t voted in yet, sets some goals that I believe will be achievable for us. This year, we are planning to become a nonprofit 501 C three organization. We’re creating committees and defining processes for them, and then within the committee’s. We have some some goals toe actually match what we did last year. So this year, without funding in place, we still want to spay and neuter Ah 100 cats. Last year at our two weekend clinics, we were able to round up 30 kittens. Great, and we found three shelters rescues that took the kittens and, um found them homes through their adoption processes. So we want to match that number this year as well, and we’re working. Thio find shelters and rescue groups that we can partner with. Thio potentially start a foster base program for a week or two very interim foster process on the island until we can line up a shelter or rescue that we partner with Thio be able to get the kittens, they’re to find homes. So if somebody is listening to this and they run a rescue group and they want to work with you, what’s the best way for them to get in touch with you? The best way to reach me would be through our Gmail address so that see, I community cuts at gmail dot com and, ah, that’s our primary mode of communication right now our Facebook Group C I Community cats is where a lot of our discussions and planning is happening. And also where you can find our upcoming events. Information. Very cool. Sounds like you guys have got big plans. You’re putting together a board going to get 51 c three, Then you’ll do fundraising. I mean, this is this is all happening so fast. I mean, you’ve only been at this for what you say. Six months, one year, one year. Okay, so, April 8th of 2018 I started the Facebook group, and at the end of April last year, I held a public information session on the island. Thio get an idea of who would be interested at that event. I spoke with over 40 people, and I had a dozen people stay for my hour long presentation about trap neuter in return and what my hopes were for starting a program on Chincoteague Island. That is so cool, Julian. Kudos to you for taking the initiative because I know it’s it’s it’s overwhelming. Right? And when you’re getting up in front of your community and your educating them and talking to them and telling them why this is so important that takes, that takes a lot. So, kudos to you for doing that. Yeah. And actually, it isn’t necessarily my community. So I live in Pennsylvania, about 200 miles away, and it’s really interesting. Thio. Try and build the relationships from a distance and connect with people. Thio find out what their skills and talents are and what their interests are, so we can partner to find the best volunteer activity for them to help out with. That’s really cool. And it sounds like you’re really making use of, you know, tools like Facebook and trying to reach out to the community of people to help you. So I’m so glad you came on the program today, Julie, to share everything you’re doing. Is there anything else you want to mention before wrap things up? Um, I’m super excited that we were able to meet and you invited me onto the program. Chris, I am so happy Thio be able to share my story and I hope to inspire others who, maybe working in another industry but have that passion and compassion to care for animals and might take that next step because of what I’m pulling together in Shrink a. Teague. I think that’s great, and your story is very inspiring. And like I said, I’m so glad that you took the initiative. You noticed a problem, and I think your lessons and sharing your story is really gonna help others as well. So thank you for doing all that. Julie, Thank you. It was so great to talk to you. And, like you said, I hope we get to talk again soon. Great. Sounds good. Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast. If you’re not already a member, join the Air P A. To take advantage of all the resources we have to offer. And don’t forget to sign up with do bert dot com. It’s free and helps automate the most difficult tasks in animal rescue.