Alison Smith's motto as the founder of a local animal rescue is to "go where the most need is."
Smith is the founder of Kitty City, a cat sanctuary and rescue for hard-to-place, injured and disabled cats located south of Mandan.
Recently, she took in a kitten from Arizona without back legs. This spring, she brought in several kittens infected with the feline herpes virus and ended up needing their eyes removed. Now, in response to the recent hurricanes, Smith has taken in 30 cats from shelters in Texas and Louisiana in order to make room for other pets from Hurricane Harvey-ravaged communities.
"I don't think a lot of people in North Dakota have taken cats; a lot have taken dogs," said Smith, referencing other organizations that have rescued displaced dogs from Texas, including Bismarck and Grand Forks. "So, we're trying to be the cat people on this end and help with what we can in our state."
Smith started Kitty City in July 2016, and, since then, she has taken in more than 200 cats. She said she receives calls daily for eight to 10 cats needing a place to stay.
"We started (Kitty City) because we were just getting calls every day, and we realized there was just such a need," she said.
Additionally, Smith is the founder of Triple H Miniature Horse Rescue, which has been around for more than a decade. Triple H is dedicated to rescue efforts for miniature equine. But Smith has taken in more than horses and cats.
"We've taken in goats, ducks, chickens, rabbits; you name it, we've had it here," she said. "Over time, they do find a home."
Smith said she had planned to drive to the South to pick up the shelter cats from Texas and Louisiana when she learned of pilots flying airplanes around the nation, relocating pets from hurricane-impacted areas.
The Humane Society of the United States is coordinating rescue efforts to fly animals out of Hurricane-Harvey impacted areas in Texas, as well as Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands, devastated by Hurricane Irma, and now Puerto Rico, hit by Hurricane Maria.
She stood by waiting for a flight, which kept getting rerouted and delayed, when finally she just decided they would drive down there. Earlier this month, her husband, Steve Smith, drove to Kansas City, Mo., to pick up the cats.
Eleven of the 30 cats are currently sick, she said. All of the sick ones have tapeworms and are on medication. This week she got them all spayed or neutered and up-to-date on their shots.
"It's a labor of love, I'll tell you," she said, noting that each cat costs $200 to $300 to get fixed and receive their shots.
Kitty City gets some donations, but, importantly, it has five to 10 long-time volunteers that visit the rescue operation daily to clean feeding and litter rooms, as well as check on the cats. She and her husband also check on the cats each day, too.
"If we're not getting help financial-wise, it's nice to have help with volunteers and so forth," she said.
She and her husband are also in the process of building a winter habitat for the cats. They recently bought a modular home, which they are renovating with cat trees and window ledges. Soon, they'll have rugs and beds for the cats to sleep on.
Smith said she hopes more people will pay more attention to the many cats — in addition to dogs — in the country needing fur-ever homes.
"Maybe this will stir some awareness, because people aren't aware that cats also need help," she said.
Smith's collecting donations through a T-shirt fundraiser, which features a T-shirt with an outline of the state of Texas and says, "Mission Pawsible." There's also a "Paws and Sip" fundraiser at the Theo Art School on Oct. 24 and another fundraiser at Station West in Mandan on Nov. 18. Donations can be made on the Triple H website at www.hhhmhr.org.