The Flying Workshop
Training others about feral cats – the flying workshop
Two great groups have come together to try and help overseas organisations deal humanely with feral cats by training and mentoring their members in techniques of trap, neuter and release. Ian MacFarlaine from The Kismet Account, author of large sections of the FAB Feral Cat Manual, and Kate Horne of SNIP International have together come up with an alternative to conventional neutering projects. Both organisations had previously supplied volunteers and equipment to overseas organisations, with variable success. They felt that there was an alternative to conventional neutering projects based on motivation, equipping and empowerment, rather than encouraging dependence on outside aid. Although information is occasionally available at animal welfare conferences, this cannot give practical advice and costs may be prohibitive. No local practical training for either animal welfare volunteers or surgically inexperienced foreign vets was available through other sources. They decided to take the training to the trainees and offer high quality training to lots of rescuers.
They put together a modular flying workshop programme. A core training programme deals with the main issues of TNR, and also tips on working with other stakeholders, as well as practical field training on trapping cats. Built on to this are additional modules, depending very much on the local levels of experience and veterinary skill, and the nature of the organisations receiving the training. The add-on modules include veterinary surgical training (hands-on), skills for rehoming, fundraising, using the internet and dealing with animal hoarders, among others. Each course can accommodate around 40 delegates from a wide range of rescue, local authority, veterinary and education backgrounds.
For organisations to qualify they need to be an established NGO, organisation or association - not individuals. For the work to continue after the training team has left there needs to be more than one person involved. The organisation needs to work well with local vets, connect to e-mail, be responsive to communication and be open minded to the training and techniques on offer. They must also be permitted by the municipal authorities to take animals off the street and neuter them.
The Kismet Account has already carried out its first two workshops in 2008, in Budapest and Istanbul. The trainers, including vet Jenny Stavisky and experienced rescue worker Harry Eckman, were unpaid volunteers from the UK. They are experienced in their professional fields at home and also highly experienced in neutering work with feral cats overseas. Sixty trainees passed through the first two courses. There is a recognised shortage of good, concise written materials in many countries, a gap which has been filled by FAB's Feral Cat Manual, which is used as a key training aid during these events, and which has been highly praised wherever it has been received.
In Istanbul, the course and workshop attracted huge and positive media coverage – covered by eight channels and five newspapers (it in fact attracted more media space than the Turkish president achieved during an announcement on the same day!). In Budapest, a number of highly experienced rescuers and vets also attended the workshop, and the training programme included quality presentations from Hungarian speakers as well.
The flying workshop is funded by donations from allied charities but principally from private individuals. Kismet Account hopes to be able to run further workshops in Malta, Cyprus, Lithuania and Japan this year with enough support and can be contacted at www.kismetaccount.org.uk, or email firstname.lastname@example.org