For good care of the cats and dogs we love

At Vashon Island Pet Protectors, our mission is to prevent pet homelessness.

R. J. Miles was at his girlfriend’s house in Olympia when he saw some stray cats outside.

One was skinny and was missing part of its tail, but it was very friendly, so R.J. decided to bring her home to Vashon even though R.J. knew they didn’t need any more cats.

R.J. is a high school student, and short on money. His mom, the owner of two cats, insisted that he have the new cat spayed and vaccinated. His mom told him about Vashon Island Pet Protectors’ Fix-a-Cat program, and his new cat became the recipient of a free spay and microchip. He also received transportation for his cat to and from Northwest Spay and Neuter Clinic in Tacoma, courtesy of VIPP.

For the 40 years of VIPP’s existence, Fair Isle Animal Clinic has traditionally partnered with VIPP for Fix-a-Cat month, but due to a nationwide vet shortage, Fair Isle was unable to participate this year and still accommodate all of their clients. So, for a whole week in February, VIPP volunteer Terri Fletcher loaded up anywhere from six to 10 cats a day at 5:30 a.m. to catch the 6:20 a.m. boat to Tacoma.

On most of those days, she returned to Vashon with the “fixed” cats from the prior day and placed them back into the arms of their owners. All in all, 38 cats made the trip.

Why did the owners do this, and why has VIPP offered no- and low-cost spaying and neutering for its 40 years? At VIPP, our mission is to prevent pet homelessness. Spaying and neutering reduces the number of unwanted cats in our community and beyond. Cats can breed quickly and deliver as many as four litters a year.

For many owners, their pets are family, and their health is paramount. According to a study by Banfield Pet Hospital, spayed female cats live 39% longer and neutered male cats live 62% longer.

For all these reasons, VIPP offers free spay and neuter services at Northwest Spay Neuter in Tacoma.

For 40 years, VIPP has offered these and other services to islanders. VIPP was founded in 1984 by Barbara Drinkwater, Piro Kramar and a few others because they were dismayed at the number of puppies and kittens offered for free outside the Thriftway and other places.

They took in puppies and kittens and dogs and cats, housed them in basements, got them healthy and fixed, and adopted them out. They began to help people in other ways, sometimes offering donated food and maybe a little cash to help with vet bills. They became a resource for those who lost a cat or dog.

Over the past four decades, these programs have matured, as has the organization.

VIPP’s spay/neuter program offers free spay and neuter at NWSN for all island-owned dogs and cats and offers low-cost microchipping as well. Those few cans of donated dog or cat food have grown into the No Hungry Pets Program, through which VIPP offers the approximate equivalent of one week of food to an average of 80 households a month.

A few dollars to help with emergency vet bills has grown into a financial assistance program that helped more than 30 families last year with over $21,000 in emergency vet care. The lost and found program responds to a call more than every other day.

All these programs are intended to keep cats and dogs in their homes and with their caregivers. When a dog or cat is found and not claimed or has to be rehomed due to a change in living situation or death in the family, VIPP is there to take them in, keep them warm, dry and well-fed, sheltered, and loved until we can find a forever home for them.

More than 50 active volunteers do this work for the island. It is a true labor of love, and for 40 years the community has shown support through contributions of pet food, volunteerism, and participation in fundraisers, such as the wacky and fun FurBall™ (cough it up at the FurBall™) auction.

For over 20 years, this event has been a crucial element in providing funds to ensure VIPP programs are sustainable and successful. This year’s Fur Ball, The Big Hairiest Fur Ball Ever, is on Saturday, May 18 at Open Space for Arts & Community. We hope you can join us. Visit for more information.

Geoffrey Fletcher is the treasurer of Vashon Island Pet Protectors.