Pet Panel Effort Gains Statewide Attention
Moore County’s pet responsibility spay/neuter curriculum has become so popular that it may soon be available statewide.
In an annual report to the board of commissioners, the Citizens’ Pet Responsibility Committee said that the program is already being taught in Wake and Forsyth counties. Consulting sessions have been held with Scotland, Gaston, Henderson and Montgomery counties.
A statewide application is being considered by Dr. Lee Hunter, director of the Animal Welfare Section and Spay/Neuter Program, Veterinary Division of the N.C. Department of Agriculture.
When the committee asked for an $8,000 grant to cover part of its expenses, one commissioner actually called it “the best money the county could spend.”
Angela Zumwalt, committee co-chairwoman, told the board that, as of October, the education program is reaching more than 1,000 fourth-graders in the public schools and one private school. This outreach is accomplished through the work of volunteers contributing some 1,050 hours, not including the hours provided by the “tail-wagging volunteers.”
“I don’t believe I’ve ever seen such a dedicated group of volunteers,” said Commissioner Jimmy Melton, who is the board liaison with the committee.
Melton said the pet committee works well with other committees and groups.
“And that’s a rarity,” Melton said. “As for that $8,000, this committee has already saved the county that much money — or more.”
In addition, Melton said the committee’s efforts have saved the lives of thousands of animals otherwise destined for euthanization.
The county commissioners established the committee in 2006 with the goal of finding solutions to the pet overpopulation crisis. Formation of the committee was an effort to deal with a movement to update and strengthen the county’s animal control ordinance, a change fiercely opposed by other groups.
Under Zumwalt’s leadership, the committee went to work looking for solutions and decided to start by working within specific communities. The first initiative was in Robbins, where town leaders vigorously cooperated.
The committee launched a program of public awareness and education and sponsored clinics to encourage lower income families to spay and neuter their pets.
From Robbins, the committee turned attention to Aberdeen and Pinebluff but soon determined a need to direct education measures toward children.
By late 2008, the committee had shifted its focus to the public schools and offered a six-session program approved by the Moore County public schools.
The program is linked with the N.C. Standard Course of Study and is integrated into the Moore County school system’s character education program. The emphasis is on good judgment, integrity, kindness, perseverance, respect and responsibility.
The main message is caring for pets, something that includes spaying and neutering to prevent the birth of unwanted dogs and cats.
The new pet responsibility curriculum was inaugurated at Vass-Lakeview Elemen--tary School in the fall of 2008.
Today, the program is offered to all fourth-graders in 44 classrooms across the county. Two programs have been presented at Pinecrest and Union Pines high schools, and a single session has been held at the Sandhills Children’s Center. Materials have been shared with Hispanic parents after school meetings.
The committee was invited to present a program to the N.C. School Coun-selors’ Association in 2010.
The committee has reached out with success to diverse elements of the community, including other animal welfare organizations, veterinarians, law enforcement K-9 handlers, and the nonprofit MANNA! meal service program.
Since the committee was formed in 2006, at least two achievements are backing up the effort.
The animal control ordinance was indeed updated and strengthened after yet another committee was formed to dig its way through multiple legal and scientific issues, as well as the sensitive areas of cultural issues. Some members of the pet committee served on the ordinance panel, which met twice monthly for almost one year.
And the Companion Animal Clinic Foundation spearheaded establishment of the nonprofit Spay Neuter Veterinary Clinic, with the blessing of the Moore County Animal Center and the Pet Responsibility Committee. Since its formation, the clinic has performed 22,559 spay/neuter surgeries for a nine-county area supporting the program. Of that total, 7,637 surgeries were performed on pets brought in by Moore County residents.
To come up with an estimate of the effect the pet committee has had on both the pet population and the county budget, the committee used clinic statistics along with other known statistics on animal services.
One example is the fact that one female cat and her offspring can produce 66 kittens in three years.
If one-third of those kittens came into the custody of Animal Control one way or another, then the total climbs to 27,500 kittens during a three-year span.
Animal Services personnel estimate that it costs $100 to handle each animal, including such services as responding to a call, catching the animal, providing quarantine, shelter, adoption or euthanasia.
By multiplying 27,500 by $100, the total comes to $275,000 a year or $2,750,000 over 10 years. And that’s just kittens, with no puppies included.
In its first year, the committee received a $16,300 appropriation from the county. The committee used $14,300 of that to provide spay-neuter subsidies for the pets of low-income families and to cover other expenses connected with the mobile spay-neuter units brought to the county through the initial program. The rest of the grant was used to meet related expenses.
The committee received a number of grants from private sources and donations from individuals to meet other expenses.
The $8,000 requested for the next fiscal year is requested to cover such expenses as teaching kits, volunteer recruitment, training materials and sessions, student handouts and folders, copies and administrative supplies.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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