The March 2014 winner of our Animal Hero of the Month award is Katrin Hecker of Animalkind in Hudson, New York.
When Katrin moved to Hudson, New York, people didn’t know what to think about her. The strange woman was riding a motorcycle down alleyways and feeding stray cats in their town. Soon she began talking to people in the community about the stray cat population, and she was fortunate to find friends and support.
Soon after making community connections she founded Animalkind, and the rescue has since spayed and neutered more than 10,000 cats and kittens since 2010. While this number undoubtedly reduced her local cat population by millions of future litters and is worth celebrating, Katrin is focused on the work that lies ahead. The remaining stray cats and kittens of Hudson still need help, and she will make sure they get it.
Katrin’s nomination was sent in by Erin Monahan:
I nominate Katrin because of everything she does for kitties. As one example, my Ayla wouldn’t have survived without the medical care and TLC provided by Katrin. Here’s a link to Ayla’s story: http://www.all-creatures.org/
ak/stories-what-20071029.html.In the Spring of 2012 there was a fire at the shelter that Katrin founded (and runs), yet she hasn’t let her stop her or hold her back from continuing to rescue and nurture a cat in need. My Ayla is only one of the thousands that Katrin has saved and gotten back to health for adoption into a forever home.
Here’s what all of our Animal Hero of the Month award winners get:
Winners will receive the Animal Hero of the Month medal and a $50 cash prize.
- A feature article like this one
- Social media mentions across all of our platforms
- A permanent spot on the list of winners
- Our custom, engraved gold-tone paw print medal with ribbon shipped to the winner
- $50 cash award
About Katrin’s Organization
Katrin moved into a 9,000 square foot facility, but it didn’t take long for the cats to start filling it up. While the community support was fantastic, another trend emerged — everyone starting bringing cats and kittens to Animalkind’s location. Soon the facility was filled with bottle babies, growing kittens, adult cats and senior felines.
Devastation hit the rescue in 2012 when a fire broke out and caused heavy damage to the building. Luckily there was a motel next door, and Katrin was able to set up a temporary camp for the cats. The challenges continued when within one month of the repairs being finished, another fire broke out in her building. Katrin wondered if this repeat misfortune was a sign to abandon her rescue plans.
The community and worldwide supporters changed her mind when donations began coming in, as well as help from the ASPCA. After another one and a half years of rebuilding, Katrin was finally able to move back into her building in September, 2013 and has continued rescuing ever since. The new facilities now feature a surgical suite to accommodate spay and neuter appointments, and the current rescued residents average around 150 at a time.
With a monthly budget of $30,000, it is impressive this rescue continues to run on grants and donations alone. A staff team of nine and two veterinarians help keep Animalkind running and stray cats with a place to call home, even if it is temporary.
Asking Katrin what she was most proud of, she pointed back to the community:
The fact that Animalkind’s existence altered over 10,000 cats preventing the birth of millions of unwanted kittens. That our local humane society became no-kill for space, something I contribute to our strong presence. That every cat we saved was loved and got a second chance. The community changed its outlook on feral cats, cat care and the “closet feeders” formerly afraid to show compassion openly are now a part of a community that looks after the most vulnerable member — our animals. A change in awareness. I am proud that the City of Hudson acknowledged the crisis of cat overpopulation and is part of the solution.
Q&A With Katrin Hecker
What got you started helping animals?
Moving from New York City to Hudson, New York 15 years ago (with 2 cats). We moved to a city that was heavily neglected, and so were the animals. Cats were everywhere; every alley had at least 30 to 60 feral cats. They were starving, sick and pregnant. Sickly kittens everywhere — it was overwhelming.
I started to feed them and soon realized that spay/neuter is the way to go besides feeding, attending and giving them shelter. So, that’s what I did until a year later and $20,000 less in my bank account. I realized I had to form an organization and get the community involved. That was in the year 2000.
What’s your earliest childhood memory that is animal-related?
A pigeon we rescued with a broken wing. My mom had to pretend at the vet that the bird was a working pigeon, otherwise they would not have treated her. She lived with us for four months until spring and flew off our balcony one day (to my 5-year-old heartbreak). Her name was Emma.
How old were you when you got your first animal?
When I was four years old I had a guinea pig named Mucky.
What is your favorite animal?
Tigers. They are just like big cats.
Tell us about the one animal you will never forget.
There are many, but this one made it. Lucky was a one-eyed, three-legged, half-tail black cat that hopped into my backyard and then right into my heart. Lucky is actually the founder of Animalkind, bringing awareness to a situation I was not exposed to before.
What are the least and highest amounts of pets you have had at one time?
Least was two. Highest was approximately 30.
If your pets could talk, what would they say?
6am: Walking can opener, get up!
7-8am: Pet me, clean the boxes please. Now let’s play. So much fun to throw everything off the counter. Give me your breakfast; It looks delicious.
4pm: FOOD or else!
7pm: Move over, I am snoozing here and want to see the movie too.
9pm: I can type much better writing this grant.
11pm: You sleep on these four inches; we take the rest of the bed.
If you could solve one problem facing animals, what would it be?
No more homeless pets, and everyone loves and respects animals.
If you could be reincarnated as any animal, which would you choose and why?
That’s a tough one. I was not planning on coming back, but if I had to I would be a fish (inedible for humans) to see the “other” side of the planet.
If the rainbow bridge exists, which pet would you most like to see waiting for you on the other side?
All of them — what a party!