Pet Panel's Efforts Save $800,000 for County
Investment of time, energy and know-how in dealing with pet overpopulation has reaped an estimated $800,000 saving to Moore County in less than one year.
Angela Zumwalt, chairwoman of the Moore County Citizens Pet Responsibility Committee, told the Board of Commissioners Monday that since its inception a year ago, her committee has worked to carry out 193 spay/neuter procedures in the Robbins area alone.
That translates into "6,400 puppies and kittens not born to die in Moore County in the next three years."
In an update to the board, Zumwalt reviewed a multitude of projects already carried out or in the planning to encourage the public to become better stewards of their four-footed friends.
The commissioners appointed the committee early last year and chose Zumwalt as its chair. The 18 members include representatives of breeders, hunters, shelters, veterinarians, the schools, towns, animal welfare groups and other nonprofits devoted to humane treatment of animals.
"We have a number of differing groups cooperating with the committee," Zumwalt said. "It's a collaboration of groups that don't usually work together."
In the beginning, the committee had no funds for operations, and much of its support has come from organizations and community groups. The county and several towns have provided places for monthly meetings.
Later, the Board of Commissioners allocated a $16,300 grant for the committee to underwrite the initial cost of a special low-cost spay/neuter program.
This program brought a special mobile veterinary unit to the Robbins area, where spay/neuter procedures were available at lower cost to pet owners unable to pay the full cost at a regular veterinarian's office. Pet owners were asked to pay a nominal fee toward the cost, and the remainder of the cost was met through the county grant and contributions from local nonprofit organizations.
In 2006, the Moore County Animal Shelter accepted 4,901 animals, of which 1,752 were adopted or returned to owners. That left some 3,110 to be euthanized because there was insufficient space to care for them.
That amounted to a cost of $617,000 to the county, or $126 to handle each animal. The cost covers such matters as answering calls, catching, then sheltering and feeding the animal.
Zumwalt gave a brief biology lesson. One pair of mating cats can produce 66 kittens in three years, 3,400 kittens in five years and 3.7 million in eight years -- if they are not spayed or neutered.
To accomplish its purpose the committee adopted a five-focus mission: education, communications/awareness, low-cost spay/neuter, an area emphasis, and placement of homeless pets.
Several factors led the committee to select the Robbins area for its pilot initiative. Committee members found Robbins town leaders to be receptive and enthusiastic about the program and also learned that it is easier to organize a program within the small town venue.
Robbins Fire Chief Jarius Garner took a leadership role in erecting a pet responsibility sign across the street from town hall to call attention to progress being made to control pet overpopulation.
Monthly low-cost spay/neuter clinics were initiated in late fall with assistance from the community and nonprofits. The mobile veterinary unit paid a visit to Davis Community Center once a month, a plan scheduled to continue until the Companion Animal Clinic opens its regional veterinary program in Southern Pines later this year. Animal Advocates of Moore County contributed $1,000 to get the program started.
Personnel from the Animal Center provided $5 rabies shots at all of the Robbins clinics. The Animal Center is an arm of the Moore County Health Depart-ment.
Zumwalt revealed that help came from a wide range of individuals and organizations.
Pinehurst High School art students designed a logo for the committee. A voicemail system was provided, thanks to Pinky Doyle of REMAX of Pinehurst. Moore Humane sponsored a countywide low-cost spay/neuter program, and the Moore County Kennel Club is now handling transportation for a puppy transfer program.
PetSmart is providing a $3,000 grant for the Pet Responsibility Celebration scheduled in conjunction with the Robbins Arts and Crafts festival April 14.
Adoptions were encouraged in December when the county Animal Center and Moore Humane held simultaneous open houses on a Saturday to show off their facilities and to explain the adoption process to the public. The event was attended by a number of county and municipal officials.
One of the more unusual adoption measures was the committee's affiliation with the North Shore Animal League of Long Island, N.Y. It seems that there is a shortage of adoptable pets in Long Island, and the league works cooperatively with agencies in other parts of the country to share their surplus pets.
In the case of Moore County, arrangements were made only for puppies, the most practical resource at the time. The Animal Center provides the puppies according to the league's requirements (including rabies vaccinations), the committee provides transportation to Mooresville, where Moore County puppies join other North Carolina puppies for transport to Long Island. The Kennel Club is now providing the transportation to Mooresville. The first trip was made by Zumwalt and Pam Partis.
As of March 21, the county has shipped 21 surplus puppies to New York.
A further effort to curtail the birth of unwanted animals is now under way through Animal Advocates of Moore County, led by Maureen Horansky-Burk and Barb Shepherd. So far, they have trapped about 40 feral cats and provided a secure holding area near Robbins until the cats could be spayed or neutered by a team from the N.C. State University School of Veterinary Medicine. A second effort is planned.
Feral cats are former domestic pets that have been abandoned or strayed from home never to return. Without domestic restraints, they have turned wild, and while not usually vicious, they are not suitable for taming or a return to domestic life.
They were collected at places where they are known to gather, such as behind restaurants or other places where people feed them but do not attempt to tame them.
Dr. Tom Daniel of the Companion Animal Clinic made arrangements for the spay/neuter mobile unit to work with the feral cat program.
Reduction in the number of feral cats is regarded as a public health issue, because they can spread disease to domestic pets and can procreate endlessly unless curbed.
Zumwalt also mentioned other programs, such as the introduction of a special curriculum in the schools and publicity in The Pilot and in other media.
The Pet Responsibility Celebra-tion in downtown Robbins on April 14 will provide a variety of services, from $5 rabies shots to entertainment.
The 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. program will feature demonstrations, a pet parade, educational programs, and announcement of the Pawster contest winners. Demonstrations will include sheepherding, agility, frisbee and pointing. In the parade will be K9 law enforcement dogs, care dogs and "I'm Part of the Solution" pets.
Zumwalt invited the commissioners to attend the event -- and bring their pets.
Florence Gilkeson can be reached at 947-4962 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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