2012 Pet Hero Award Winner - Zoe Kamitses,
ARF of the Hamptons Volunteer
Volunteer of the Year
The Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons, Inc. (ARF) a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization nominated Ms. Zoe Kamitses for the "Volunteer of the Year" Pet Hero Award. Zoe is the Chairperson of Operation Cat, a feral cat TNR program that has been responsible for neutering over 15,000 cats on eastern Long Island since the program began in 1997. She is a year-round resident of Southampton Village with a long history of community volunteerism.
As a board member of ARF, Zoe was concerned by the large number of angry phone calls the adoption center received about stray and feral cats. Before Operation Cat, ARF’s only recourse was to call Animal Control. Animal Control would euthanize the cats. Zoe went on line and learned about the Feral Cat Coalition in San Diego. Back in 1997, that was about the only resource that came up on her internet search. How things have changed.
Using the information from the Feral Cat Coalition, Zoe started Operation Cat. ARF funded the program with a $10,000 seed grant and it was underway.
The first thing the program accomplished was to bring together and unify the many people who were doing TNR or feeding cats on their own. Zoe organized monthly meetings for theses new volunteers whom she called “cat activist”.
Zoe is a brilliant community organizer. To grow the program she trained the original “cat activist” to train others. Every time a new complaint was received, Zoe insisted that the caller be converted to an activist. There are now 1,000 feral cat colonies in the Operation Cat database.
Zoe is an ardent and compelling communicator. She has been responsible for swaying local governments to fund and support Operation Cat and to permit colonies to remain on public land.
Today, Operation Cat has a $90,000 budget and is one of ARF’s most successful programs. The following are program highlights which would not have been possible without Zoe Kamitses:
1999: All local vets participate in the program. Vets perform spay/neuter, distemper & rabies vaccine and ear tip on all cats for reduced fee of $50.
Acadamy Award winning illustrator John Canemaker donates “Breaking the Feral Cat Cycle” an educational cartoon featuring Vincent, the mascot of Operation Cat.
2000: Southampton Town agrees to stop euthanizing feral cats, and passes a resolution to make Southampton Town a “no-kill” town for feral cats.
2001: Operation Cat program receives $10,000 challenge grant from PETsMART Charities which is matched by the Town of Southampton.
2002: Operation Cat program sets new record of 1,205 feral cats neutered in one year.
A local hotel, the Southampton Inn, donates the use of a conference room for cat adoptathons twice a year.
2004: Kittens and tame stray cats are regularly removed from colonies. Socialized kittens and cats originating from Operation Cat volunteers represent 39% of total felines admitted to ARF Adoption Center.
Operation Cat program receives grants from East Hampton Town, Southampton Town and Suffolk County and several private foundations.
The Meow Mix Company agrees to donate 2,000 pounds of cat food per month to support the colonies.
2005: New record of 1,220 feral cats neutered in one year.
2007-2009: Op Cat continues to grow throughout eastern Long Island, expanding to the hamlet of Westhampton.
2009: ARF hires first full time veterinarian, brings most feral cat neuters in-house, saving funds.
2010: Town funding dries up due to budget constraint, but private philanthropy makes up the difference.
2011: Number of kittens admitted to the ARF Adoption Center from the Operation Cat programs continues to decline for the third year in a row, proving the success of the TNR program. Drukier Family Foundation launches challenge grant to fund cat food for feral colonies across eastern Long Island.
Pet Hero Awards