Great Contribution By Pet Committee
At times, it seems that Moore County really is going to the dogs - and cats. Maintenance of the county animal shelter costs taxpayers more than $600,000 a year. Much of that cost goes to cover the handling of unwanted and abandoned cats and dogs, many of which are euthanized because of insufficient space to house them.
It's a heartbreaking situation, especially when the animals are healthy and have the potential of becoming nice pets for everyone from children to elderly retirees, from the ailing to the disabled. But from a hard-nosed financial standpoint, the county spends a hunk of money on a problem that could be resolved if residents were more responsible.
The Citizens Pet Responsibility Committee was formed in 2006 as something of a compromise between people agitating for an update of the existing animal control ordinance and those people who fear unwanted government control of their business or personal lives. Under the leadership of Angela Zumwalt, the committee went to work at the behest of the county commissioners and soon surprised everyone with widespread acceptance.
Major Goal: Education
The first task was that of making it easier for families with limited incomes to have their pets spayed and neutered. The committee began in Robbins, moved to Aberdeen and Pinebluff, then shifted gears and turned to classroom education.
Education has been a major goal of the committee since its inception, but now the pet responsibility curriculum developed by the committee has become so successful that N.C. Department of Agriculture officials are actually considering taking the initiative statewide.
The carefully crafted professional curriculum now reaches more than 1,000 fourth-graders in local schools each year. Not counting the tail-wagging helpers who accompany volunteers into classrooms, the tally for volunteers exceeds 500.
These volunteers introduce the concept of pet responsibility to schoolchildren. They do it with simple instruction, but also with help from such professionals as veterinarians and law-enforcement officers. The volunteers see evidence that these children are already influencing their parents. But the goal is to develop a generation of adults who will not perpetuate the animal overpopulation problem that has long plagued Moore County and other parts of the state.
A Job Well Done
Once the committee achieved a toehold on the subject, the county began to see progress. The long-delayed update of the animal control ordinance was accomplished under the leadership of another committee that reached out to all walks of life.
Then the nonprofit Companion Animal Clinic Foundation opened the Spay/Neuter Veterinary Clinic. Now low-income pet owners have no excuse for not preventing the birth of hundreds of unwanted cats and dogs.
With the sluggish economy and repeated deployment of military personnel, it's likely that the animal center will have few vacancies in coming years, but now we have reason to hope for a degree of relief once these fourth-graders develop into responsible adult pet owners.
Taxpayers and animal lovers alike should be grateful to the pet committee for dedication, persistence and a job well done. The pets also say thanks.
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