FixNation’s Karn Myers, TPM AllStar Animal Advocates
Karn Myers, along with her husband Mark Dodge, founded FixNation. Fix Nation is Los Angeles’ only full-time, free spay and neuter clinic for feral and stray cats. Since 2007, FixNation 2007, has provided comprehensive TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) support including free spay/neuter services for homeless cats. FixNation does TNR outreach and education and offers as affordable care for companion cats, and partnerships to facilitate adoptions.
Recently Karn was a guess on The Pet Matchmaker Podcast, and now she’s a TPM AllStar Animal Advocate! Here’s what Karn had to say…
TPM: What inspired you to start advocating on behalf of homeless cats?
I would say it all started when I was working on the movie, Titanic, where I worked for a special effects house. I saw these two ladies outside feeding a bunch of cats. I asked them what they were doing, whose cats they were feeding? They told me these felines belonged to nobody. They told me they were homeless.
We had pet cats at the time. Mark, my husband introduced me to cats 40 years ago when we met, and I fell in love with them.
But it had never occurred to me that there were homeless cats.
It wasn’t until I spoke to those ladies that I began to understand the gravity of the situation, especially since the women weren’t neutering or spaying the animals. I intuitively wondered about that, about how many more were coming into this world to live unwanted.
I went home and told Mark, and we started to do some research. That’s when we learned that there were an estimated 1-3 million homeless cats in Los Angeles. A dear friend of ours was the Chief Medical Officer of VCA hospitals, and so we went to talk to him. Mark and I decided what we wanted to do, what we felt we had to do, which was to focus on spay/neuter. This friend of ours let us have access to all VCA hospitals closed on Sundays to let us do spay and neuter as a MASH unit. And that’s how we began!
What is the best part of the advocacy work you do?
The best part of our work is making a difference to prevent unwanted litters that would likely live a life of suffering.Our research shows that the majority of cats that go into the shelter are euthanized, especially the ferals who don’t get a chance at all. Preventing these animals from being born and then killed — or often abused in unimaginable ways — because they’re unwanted and unprotected, this is what gives us purpose.
Mark always says that we humans domesticated the cat. Therefore we have a responsibility to care about them.
What is the most challenging part of the advocacy work you do?
The most challenging part of our job is seeing all the cats out there and not being able to fix them all right now. FixNation can’t change the whole problem today or right away. The truth is we might not ever be able to solve it completely in our lifetime.
We can’t get the job done fast enough.
And it’s hard to remember that it still makes a difference to that one cat we helped. But just thinking about how many there are out there can be paralyzing. So the most challenging thing for me is to do the best we can and know it’s enough and know that it takes time.
The other challenging part is finding the money to do it.
FixNation is a full on vet clinic with paid staff, doing high volume spay and neuter. This means we need skilled veterinarians who want to do this kind of work — meaning fixing a minimum of 50 cats each a day.
We provide this service to the public for FREE!
It costs us money to pay staff and to handle the volume we do, but because we are committed to helping the free-roaming, stray, and community cats of Los Angeles, we don’t charge for it. We couldn’t possibly charge the amazing trappers and caregivers who come in with dozens of cats. They couldn’t possibly afford to sterilize these cats singlehandedly. So we have to find funding elsewhere.
Financial support is key so these good people can keep caring.
As Mark says, we’re a charity that needs charity. Securing donations can be tough, but we can’t continue without them. One thing we have done is to charge a nominal fee to fix, microchip, and vaccinate pet cats. This helps subsidize some of the high volume community cats who we are focused on helping.
What is the biggest misconception about your animal advocacy work?
The biggest misconception out there about our organization is that FixNation is funded by big donors and have lots of money to do what we do!
The reality is that we need any amount of money and all kinds of support.
Some people seem to think that the government pays for our work, which is definitely not true. Overall, people don’t think the homeless cat problem is as big as it really is and that’s another hurdle we face.
What is one of the greatest memories you have advocating on behalf of homeless pets?
FixNation has now fixed more than 115,000 cats, but we started with 6 cats. Our first clinic consisted of 6 cats, 5 vets to volunteer, and all donated supplies. We’ve done so much since then.
My best memory is probably when we launched FixNation in 2007 and realized that we could hit those bigger numbers.
This is something Mark and I have done together, sacrificing part of our careers, which we were doing at the time to get involved through our Catnippers program, before we launched FixNation as a unique non-profit. So creating our own organization and letting it stand on its own has been remarkable.
I credit Mark for making it happen. He was our face and raised all the funds we needed to begin.
How do you keep your emotional/mental/physical strength doing the advocacy work you do?
I don’t know how I keep my emotional, mental, and physical strength! It takes a lot out of someone, this work. It’s overwhelming. But I ask myself: How can I walk away?
Even when I’m exhausted, I must keep going. Especially since this is Mark’s legacy.
I try to take care of myself. Friends come over, we go out. Mark and I try to get out and do fun things like going to a Crosby, Stills & Nash concert! Doing fun things with Mark definitely recharges me. Or sometimes just going to have a glass a wine at our neighbor’s helps. I take it a day at a time. Plus, Mark and I have always lived in a grateful state, and that has carried us.
What do you think is one of the most effective ways to advocate for animals and to protect them from harm?
One of the most effective ways to advocate for animals is to advocate about the issues and about how many animals are dying or suffering. Stray, feral cats often have no chance at life once they enter the shelter. They are often deemed unadoptable and euthanized within 24 hours.
People should research programs in their local communities to find out if the community supports Trap-Neuter-Return. If they don’t, start writing letters and making a push for more pro-cat legislation and policies at the municipal shelters.
We also have to make people aware that abuse to an animal is often a strong indicator of abuse to humans, so it’s a communal problem that affects all of us. We must get the word out. Yes, you have to do the work, which is what we do at FixNation.
But it’s equally important to let people know what the problem is and why the work is important.
I think striking a balance between being an animal person and a people person is also a great way to protect and help animals. We need people to help them so we must learn how to work with everybody, how to handle people as well as animals. Lastly, for anyone who is interested in starting a new nonprofit, remember that you have to run your organization like a business. Your emotions cannot get in the way. You have to utilize control so that you can grow and affect change.
Do you have any pets of your own? Tell us about them.
Of course! We currently have 6 cats — we used to have 10! We have Magic who was trapped for one of our clinics. When Mark saw him, Magic just fell down inside the trap like “love me.”
He’s just a big ol’ fluffball who wants to sit on your head, your lap, everywhere. Then we have Shadow who’s always the first to meow for food, just like he was when he was found as a kitten. We also have Mandy who’s our older kitty that loves attention, and Simon who’s a sweetie but unfortunately has hyperthyroidism.
Lastly we have our two youngest kitties, Angel and Dulce, our most recent additions who were lucky to arrive at FixNation. We adopted them before they were returned to their colony.
Who do you admire most in the world, and what is it about them that you admire?
The person I admire most in this world is definitely Mark. In spite of having ALS, which is a cruel and horrific disease, he always greets me with a smile and tells me he loves me.
He just never gives up. He doesn’t complain when I go out, and instead wants me to tell him all about my day or dinner or wherever I was. Mark can’t move or speak anymore. Yet he doesn’t look on the dark side. He meets life every day, openly and warmly.
What is the best way to directly help you do the work FixNation is doing?
Currently, FixNation is open 40 hours a week, Wednesday through Sunday… We’d love to be open 7 days a week…
The best way people can help us directly is financial. We need support in order to keep doing this work and the more support we get, the more numbers we can do. Currently, we’re open 40 hours a week (Wednesday thru Saturday) with additional bi-monthly clinics on Sundays. We’d love to be open 7 days a week if it were financially possible.
I can run the FixNation clinic with my eyes closed, but I need the money to be able to do it.
I wish I could do more, hire more vets, and be open longer. If we had more money we’d be able to. I was approached recently by an organization in Israel who wants to replicate what we do. I’d love to be able to do go over there and teach them.
I’d love to share FixNation’s strategy with more organizations so that more cats can be helped everywhere. But again, all of this takes money. Being a nonprofit, it comes down to donations.
We’re not going to adopt our way out of this overpopulation problem. We have to hit it at both sides. At FixNation, we believe we can make an enormous impact through spaying and neutering.
Thanks to Karn Myers and FixNation for all the amazing work they do for stray and feral cats – a genuine TPM AllStar Animal Advocate!
You can donate directly to FixNation.org here. Please like them on Facebook. Follow them on Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. Please use your social media to spread the word on this important organization.
You’ll find all of TPM’s AllStar Animal Advocates here.