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Meet Karn Myers of FixNation

Today we’d like to introduce you to Karn Myers.

Karn, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’m the co-founder and executive director of FixNation, a top-rated, Los Angeles-based nonprofit that provides free spay/neuter services to homeless cats, along with basic medical care and a generous dose of love and compassion. Our high-volume, high-quality, state-of-the-art clinic also offers low-cost spay/neutering and microchipping for pet cats, a loan program for humane traps, free hands-on education and training, free counseling on the care and management of feral colonies, and extensive community outreach.

FixNation was founded by myself and my late husband, Mark Dodge, more than 12 years ago. We became animal welfare advocates after learning about the shocking number of homeless cats in Los Angeles. Currently, the city uses lethal methods in an attempt to manage the ever-increasing numbers of stray, abandoned and feral felines – the nation’s largest population of “community cats”. Yet such methods are not only ineffective and costly, they are also horribly cruel and completely unnecessary.

Compelled to take action, we started Catnippers in 1999, a monthly mobile spay/neuter clinic staffed entirely by volunteers. The venture was a great success – fixing more than 18,000 cats – but it soon became apparent that we needed to do much more to truly make a difference. Our research showed that only viable solution for out-of-control populations of homeless cats wasn’t mass euthanasia; it was Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), whereby cats are trapped, sterilized and returned to their place of origin to live out the rest of their days, and allowing the number of unwanted births to naturally and gradually decline.

In 2007, we launched FixNation, the first full-time spay-neuter facility in Los Angeles to provide a comprehensive TNR program: free spay/neuter services for homeless cats, TNR outreach and education, free training and loans of humane traps. We’ve recruited a top-notch medical team and administrative staff, and work with a well-established network of experienced volunteer trappers and colony caregivers, as well as the general public. Over time, our mission expanded to include affordable services for pet cats and partnerships with rescue organizations to facilitate adoptions.

In addition to free spay/neuter surgery, every homeless cat brought into the FixNation clinic receives vaccinations, fluids, long-lasting antibiotics, pain medication, treatments for mange, fleas, ear mites and worms, high quality care for any abscesses and/or injuries, and advanced medical care via various partner programs, if needed. Over the past twelve years, FixNation has become a model for TNR and cat population management around the world and has provided free services to more than 160,000 cats. Our dream has been a huge success, raising awareness of homeless cats, proving that TNR works and inspiring other communities to develop their own programs.

Has it been a smooth road?
The road has been far from smooth and there have been numerous obstacles over the years, including an injunction that prohibits the City of Los Angeles from funding or promoting publicly any of FixNation’s programs for feral cats. Prior to the injunction, we had partnered with the city to both receive funds and referrals of concerned residents who wanted to help cats in their neighborhood and we hope that the legal battle will be resolved so we can get back to coordinated life-saving efforts.

All of our services are either free or low-cost, to keep them accessible to low-income families and so fundraising is a never-ending priority. Ultimately we rely on animal lovers to make this work possible. As we don’t receive any funding for homeless cats from local government sources, grants and individual donations allow us to keep our doors open. It’s a daily struggle but we are devoted to helping homeless cats.

All of these obstacles pale in comparison to the biggest challenge we’ve faced, which was Mark’s illness. About five years after we launched FixNation, we received a devastating blow. Mark was diagnosed with a rare form of ALS, a fatal disease that in his case was likely triggered by exposure to Agent Orange in the Vietnam War.

For several years, Mark remained as active as possible, overseeing grant proposals, reviewing legal issues and attending special events and board meetings – even after he became completely paralyzed and unable to speak Mark continued to contribute and communicate with eye-tracking computer technology. As time went on and his capacities steadily diminished, I took on more and more responsibilities for FixNation. It was an enormous challenge to do everything without the help of my partner, especially when Mark was such a tour de force in terms of fundraising and networking. He was the face of FixNation. But what keeps me going are the cats.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with FixNation – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Mark was a visionary and his passion was infectious. He wanted to have the clinic operating at full capacity seven days a week. Establish new partnerships with rescue groups. Coordinate more airlifts and ground transfers to other communities seeking adoptable cats. He aspired to have an even broader reach, save even more lives, prevent even more births.

FixNation is the first and largest clinic in the country that does what we do at the volume we do – and we do it all for free. What would happen if FixNation wasn’t around anymore to help these homeless cats and prevent needless deaths and suffering? This is why we have to keep on doing what we’re doing. To keep Mark’s dream alive.

Mark was my soul mate and the love of my life, and I miss him terribly. Yet even though he is no longer be with us physically, I believe his spirit and his love and compassion for cats lives on. For the cats, and for Mark, we will never give up. This is his legacy.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
Love the variety of things to do. Dislike the traffic.

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Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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