Pet Responsibility Program Ramps Up for New School Year
BY ANGELA ZUMWALT
Special to The Pilot
The upcoming school year marks the fifth year of the Pet Responsibility Program in Moore County Schools.
The program began back in the fall of 2008 when the then-principal of Vass-Lakeview Elementary School, Donna McClary, enthusiastically welcomed the Pet Responsibility Program for fourth-graders into her school as a pilot program in the county.
This past school year, the six-week Pet Responsibility Program was presented in all fourth-grade classrooms in all Moore County public schools.
Pet Responsibility Committee volunteers taught 15 programs in 14 public schools, plus an additional three programs at The O'Neal School, The Academy of Moore and Pope John Paul II Catholic School.
This means the message regarding being responsible pet owners has reached well over a thousand students in one school year.
At the end of each school year, members of the Pet Responsibility Committee analyze surveys completed by the regular fourth-grade teachers at each school and by committee volunteers regarding the program.
The lesson plans are then revised to accommodate suggestions. This summer's update also includes mapping content to the Common Core State Standards that Moore County is adopting going forward.
Volunteers are currently enrolling to attend a full day training session on July 19 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Agricultural Center in Carthage. The training is both for seasoned volunteers and for new volunteers.
Attendees will be taken through all six modules, with changes from last year's materials highlighted. Those who have taught the program before will be encouraged to complement the training with their comments borne of experience.
The program relies totally on the dedication and passion of volunteers. The only qualifications needed are a love of pets and children and a desire to impart valuable information about the respect and responsibility involved in sharing life with a pet. All materials and training are provided. New volunteers are encouraged to call (910) 949-9953 to enroll in the training.
News of the program has spread to other areas of North Carolina, and currently more than 17 attendees from other counties have signed up for the training. The program has been successfully taught in Wake, Yadkin and Scotland counties.
Staff at the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Animal Welfare Section and Spay/Neuter Program, have been watching the progress in Moore County.
At their request, Pam Partis and Angela Zumwalt, co-chairs of the committee, will run an education workshop for interested organizations in Williamston on July 25.
"Preparing Moore County volunteers always remains the priority," says a committee member. "We never want to take for granted the privilege of being in the schools, and they focus on being well-prepared and professional."
One fourth-grade teacher commented in the survey, "The lessons taught the students how to be responsible citizens and about the proper care of animals. I feel that the lessons met my expectations and did a thorough job of integrating other content areas such as math, science, social studies and language arts."
Another wrote, "Our students are still talking about spaying, neutering and other information taught. I feel that our students gained valuable information regarding becoming responsible pet owners and also learned about compassion as well."
A highlight of the program at each school is the presentation of a free spay or neuter to the winner of "The Speuter Bowl Award." The students are challenged to write an essay about how their pet and the community would benefit from their pet being spayed or neutered.
Since its inception, the free spay or neuter was donated by The Sandhills Pet Gazette (www.sandhillspetgazette.com), a local online pet resource website created and edited by PRC volunteer Betsy Ficarro.
This coming school year, the Moore County Kennel Club of North Carolina (MCKC) has offered to sponsor the essay contest. Ursula Walsh represents the MCKC on the committee and volunteers her time in the schools with the program. The MCKC fully supports the program and voted to show its support through this valuable sponsorship.
Check out www.mcprc.org for more information on the Citizens' Pet Responsibility Committee and its volunteer teaching opportunities.
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