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Animal Advocates Celebrate Progress, Forge PartnershipsBy Mandy Catoe
June 16, 2017
Sun City animal lovers joined with county council members, an animal-welfare expert and Nutramax Laboratories on Wednesday and pledged to improve the lives of pets across the county and at the Lancaster County Animal Shelter.
More than 60 people filled the Sun City Lake House meeting room Wednesday afternoon for the annual community meeting for two Sun City-based rescue groups – Lancaster Animal Shelter Supporters (LASS) and Wags and Whiskers.
Kristen Blanchard, vice president of external corporate affairs for Nutramax, attended along with Lancaster County Council members Larry Honeycutt and Terry Graham. All pledged their continued support.
“I love to see what LASS is doing to build partnerships that will help animals," Blanchard said. “There has been a lack of groups willing to form partnerships until LASS. I have been so impressed with what they and the county are doing.”
The annual meeting was a nod to what has been accomplished at the shelter and a recognition that much remains to be done.
Barbara Taylor, LASS volunteer coordinator, named several ways people could help save shelter pets. She named the following areas of need: socialization, animal care, pet photography for their Facebook page, transporting to veterinarians and rescue groups, fostering, walking dogs, playing with kittens, and temperament testing.
The featured speaker was Jorge Ortega, an animal-welfare consultant. He has worked more than 25 years with animal-welfare groups including the Charlotte Humane Society.
The recipe for a more successful shelter is forming partnerships and educating the public on animal care and the need for spaying and neutering, he said.
He encouraged the group to apply for grants that will financially assist the public with sterilization.
“If you make a goal to save them all and don’t focus on the necessary steps to get there, then you will fail,” he said.
A member of the audience asked if and how the animal shelter could become a no-kill shelter.
“A county shelter has responsibilities and should not be judged for putting vicious dogs to death,” Ortega said. “Work with them and relieve some of that pressure.”
The county has to deal with stray pets, animal cruelty and vicious dogs, whereas a private shelter can avoid handling those animals and keep its euthanasia rate lower, he said.
A “no-kill shelter” is defined as one with a 90-percent adoption rate, Ortega explained.
“Working together in partnership will help reduce euthanasia rates,” he said.
Addressing the logistics of sterilizing shelter animals, Blanchard said veterinarians usually prefer visiting the shelter for medical procedures to prevent the risk of diseases at their facilities.
“Having a sterile operating room at the shelter is vital for a successful shelter,” she said.
“It will take time and everyone working together to get things done,” Ortega said. “Transporting animals out is great to get them out of the shelter to make room for new ones coming in, but more needs to be done to develop plans to reduce the number of unwanted pets being born.”
Carolina Place Animal Hospital in Richburg will spay or neuter adopted shelter dogs for $65 as long as the owner has the paperwork from the shelter. Rabies shots cost $9, according to Bernie Large, an animal advocate who works closely with LASS.
One member suggested taking the animals to schools to teach about animal care.
“I love the idea of dogs in schools and teaching kids about animal health and taking care of your pets,” Blanchard said.
Nutramax, whose business includes creating and manufacturing health products for pets, would provide volunteers and financial support with such a program if it fits the company’s corporate philosophy, she said.
Councilman Terry Graham, whose district includes Indian Land, said the county is fortunate to have the strong partnership with LASS and Alan Williams as shelter director.
“People around the country are calling Alan for advice for their shelters,” Graham said.
He said the shelter has a long way to go, but is much improved since last year and those improvements are because of LASS.
The animal-rescue group helped the undersized shelter through its most recent trial, a six-week battle against a distemper outbreak. LASS found placement for several dogs.
Williams and his staff of two quarantined 25 dogs in 20 separate kennels about a quarter mile from the shelter. They provided antibiotics and vaccines to the dogs. Many veterinarians suggested Williams just euthanize and start over, but he chose the harder path and saved every dog.
Honeycutt closed the meeting with a promise that a new state-of-the-art shelter would be completed in 2018.
“It will have an operating room,” he said.
Upon hearing that, the audience cheered and clapped.
Honeycutt credited LASS with bringing the needs to the attention of county council. He admitted he had not visited the shelter in his 11 years on county council until he saw the dedicated advocacy of LASS.
LASS was formed by Sue White and Janine Gross four years ago when they visited the shelter to donate blankets and food. The two women returned to Sun City and rallied the residents. Their list of accomplishments fills a letter-size sheet of paper with small print and two columns.
LASS President Arlene McCarthy said she was pleased with the turnout and said many came forward to volunteer.
Just this year, LASS has raised over $30,000 for the shelter. A little more than half those funds paid for a unit of seven climate-controlled kennels that expanded the shelter’s space by 30 percent.
The group is a constant presence at county council meetings.
Follow Reporter Mandy Catoe on Twitter @MandyCatoeTLN or contact her at (803) 283-1152.