CatADPR Class Launches Campaign to Save the Feral Cat Population

It began with a personal mission: to raise awareness about the plight of Milwaukee’s feral cat population. Through a partnership with the Wisconsin Humane Society, faculty members Joyce Wolburg, Gee Ekachai, Linda Menck and their ADPR capstone course students created a comprehensive campaign to do just that.

Wolburg first became involved in this issue when she began taking care of a family of feral cats that had made a home in her backyard. With current laws targeting the wild-roaming cat population, she saw the need to promote public understanding and humane solutions to this frequently misunderstood issue. Wolburg teamed up with Ekachai and Menck, two other ADPR faculty members interested in this problem. She contacted the Wisconsin Humane Society, who agreed to work with the students to develop a local awareness campaign about its “Trap, Neuter, Vaccinate and Return” initiative (TNVR), the humane alternative to euthanizing this animal population. From there, the effort to spread the word about TNVR was set into motion.

“The idea was to control the feral cat population and keep it from getting out of hand,” says Wolburg. “And to educate people that euthanasia isn’t the best means to deal with this problem.”

The team of faculty and their students set to work determining how to effectively craft a campaign around the issue. Wolburg’s class established the initial action plan, which was implemented by Ekachai and Menck’s capstone students the following semester. Dividing into groups, students were tasked with tackling specific objectives, including legal aspects and political lobbying, education, fundraising and a support network for feral cat caregivers.

Brainstorming sessions and meetings with the Humane Society led to a variety of creative solutions, including social media outreach, printed promotional materials and grassroots outreach. Students designed eye-catching advertisements for city transit shelters and bus display panels, lawn signs, stickers and food packaging for local eateries. A multimedia website built by the class incorporated downloadable photos and desktop wallpaper designs, informational videos, resource listings and even an interactive game for site visitors.

Though not without challenges, the campaign ultimately proved to be a success. The project earned high praise from the Wisconsin Humane Society, who put many of the students’ ideas into practice. The campaign also received a showcase award at the Regional Service Learning Symposium, a high honor awarded to only four applicants each year.

The students and faculty involved reflect on the campaign as hard work, but also a great experience and learning opportunity.

“Teaching something that you have a passion for is both fun and gratifying,“ says Ekachai of the project. “And it’s satisfying to see that your work has reached someone.”

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