It was 10 years ago, back in 2011, when Alannah Knapp first noticed that Golden had a stray cat problem.
Moving to Golden fresh out of school, completing the fish and wildlife program at Sir Sanford Fleming College, she began noticing hundreds, if not thousands, of stray kittens and cats all over town.
Her friend Diane Slater had also noticed the problem, and the pair decided it was time to take action.
“We noticed separately that this was a huge problem and we wanted to work together to pull as many of them off the street as we could,” said Knapp.
“We did what we could to get them off the streets and into homes, but it was even bigger than that.
“We quickly realized that this was a massive problem and started to look into becoming an actual non-profit.”
From there, Little Mittens was born.
The only animal rescue operation of its kind from Nelson to Kamloops, Little Mittens takes in cats, dogs and in recent years has expanded to wildlife rehabilitation.
They’ve come a long way from the mini-shelter that Knapp’s husband had built in the back of Slater’s garage, now occupying a 20-acre parcel of land donated by Ron and Nancy Watson.
“We went from having kittens living in spare rooms and bathrooms, to building a few enclosures at my place, to our current operation,” said Knapp.
“We just kept building to save more domestic animals and wildlife. We’re well beyond the cat problem from 10 years ago, that we can now say is under control.”
Knapp credits her success to her team of volunteers and workers, who are mostly women, although she says that’s not by design and she’s had some great male volunteers over the years.
“My wildlife team, I couldn’t ask for better ladies. They work around the clock. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Knapp.
“Everyone came together and put the animals first…The whole group is just amazing.”
For Knapp, communication and teamwork is key, something she says hasn’t always been the case in her experience.
She says in the past she’s had problems with individuals starting up rival rescue teams, instead of pooling their resources together to ensure the best care in the region. That doesn’t fly with Knapp.
“Women need to build each other up. Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed the opposite in a harsh way but I keep working,” said Knapp.
“Just looking at my team now, when you support each other and build each other up, it makes a world of difference and to me, there’s just no sense in fighting each other when we could work together.”
For other women looking to get into business or into wildlife rehab, she says it’s important to persevere and push past the obstacles you may face to find success.
“Just keep at it, keep working hard and doing the good work. Women will step up and help you. I’ve seen it first hand,” said Knapp.
For Knapp, she always looks to her mentor, Jenna, for advice and validation, saying that having a female role model has been incredibly valuable throughout the last decade of Little Mittens.
“People in this industry can be competitive rather than collaborative and having her as a role model, it’s been invaluable,” said Knapp.
Over the years, Knapp says the community has stood behind her, with more fundraisers and donations than she can believe. Having that support has allowed her to overcome any challenges and keeps her moving forward.
Now, things have come full circle, with Knapp setting her eyes on tackling the cat problem just south of Briscoe, rescuing 35 of almost 60 cats in a colony.
She considers herself to be incredibly lucky to be able to do the work that she does with the support of her team.
International Women’s Day was first celebrated on March 19, 1911, in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. The United Nations later started celebrating on March 8.
In 2021 it should be no surprise that more and more woman hold positions of power. Whether it’s business, politics, sports or the non-profit sector, woman continue to achieve new milestones.
This story is part of a series of stories highlighting four women in Golden who are leaders in their fields. You can read all of their stories in our annual publication called Women in Business in the March 11 issue of The Golden Star.