Jessica Shuman, who describes herself as a born animal-lover and activist, started a nonprofit called Tucson CARES (Companion Animal Rescue, Education and Support). The organization runs a trap, neuter and return program to decrease feral-cat populations throughout Tucson, and does cat and dog adoptions and rescues. To support the work, Tucson CARES opened Kismet, a resale shop at 2627 E. Broadway Blvd. (open Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 6 p.m.). The shop is also home to Tucson CARES, so if you're looking for a cool vintage Hawaiian shirt and a cat, this is your place. For info on Kismet, call 207-9994; to learn more about Tucson CARES, call 990-8912.
Why start an animal rescue and education organization?
My pets have always been a part of my family. I think that ... culture of animal welfare has also been a part of my family. When I was really young, I noticed a lot of animals, mostly feral cats, and I did some research and found out about a practice called trap, neuter and return, and that's one of our programs that I'm most passionate about. It is considered the most effective means of managing feral-cat populations. It's a progressive, long-term solution.
How do you know it works?
I started working in my own neighborhood, in Barrio Viejo. There are colonies around the downtown area that can easily be 10 to 20 to 30 cats. I happened to live near one in Barrio Viejo, which is when I started trap, neuter and return. You trap the cats, then have them neutered and return them to the neighborhood. It works.
How are you doing trap, neuter and return with your organization?
We ... loan traps to the public and provide mentoring and guidance and best practices for trap, neuter and return.
I understand you work with your mother?
Yes, my mother, Susan Platte, is a partner in the organization. I've largely been the public face, because I work out in the field directly with the community, but my mother has done a lot of the behind-the-scenes work. She's the one who encouraged me to formalize what I was doing into a nonprofit. It's been great. Having something formal has allowed us to get grants and to negotiate for services in a way that we couldn't before.
What other services do you provide through Tucson CARES?
Basically, we provide spay and neuter services to low-income families. We primarily work through low-cost, high-volume clinics, but we have a lot of vets in the community who we work with on animals that need full-service veterinarian care. We also have programs to help people maintain and keep their pets during times of hardship. We look at each situation, and we see what resources there are in the community. ... We don't just have a blanket answer. We look at each unique situation that we're faced with and think about what is going to be the best outcome for the family, animal and community.
Do you have an example?
Well, we don't do fence repair, but if there is a dog who keeps getting out of a yard, then we'll do fence repair if we need to, and we have.
The core of your program is trap, neuter and return. Why is that so important?
It's kind of like if you teach a man to fish. If you get a group of people in a neighborhood who will learn about the practice and will practice it, that is so much better than having a group of volunteers run around trying to do it. ... We've been working with neighborhood associations, and we offer matching grants to neighborhood associations and loan a bank of traps.
How does that work?
Say we're having a presentation in Armory Park. They'll raise $800, and we'll match it. We'll find a trap representative in that neighborhood and give them 20 traps. They manage the traps, and we will mentor that person. Then you cultivate a group of people in a neighborhood to work together.
You're calling Kismet a green boutique. How is it green?
We offer a 5 percent discount to anyone who uses an alternative method of travel ... and if you bring in proof of spay or neuter for an animal, or proof of adoption or microchip, you get a lifetime 5 percent discount. We also have a commitment to the environment. Everything in the shop is recycled, and we were very conscientious in materials that we used in our renovation of the space.