A birthday banner and other festive decorations were displayed in the lobby of the Humane Society of Charlotte on a recent morning. The local nonprofit was founded in 1978 and is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year.
Founder Patti Lewis was visionary about spay/neuter, says Shelly Moore, president and CEO of the Humane Society of Charlotte since July 2010.
When the societys spay/neuter clinic opened in 1982, it was the first low-cost spay/neuter clinic in the Southeast. From 1982 through May 2013, some 201,896 animals have passed through, Moore said.
As far as Im concerned, I think its probably one of the most important, if not the most important, services that we provide to this community, making sure that theres affordable and accessible spay and neuter for anyone to help reduce the number of unwanted animals in this community, Moore said.
Over the years, Humane Society of Charlotte has become more involved in the community, Moore said. A new community outreach program called Pets for Life highlights that effort.
The program involves identifying zip codes with high surrender and pick-up rates with Charlotte Mecklenburg Animal Care & Control. Humane Society workers interact closely with residents in those neighborhoods to teach proper pet care. They offer pet food and rabies vaccination clinics, and encourage use of spay/neuter services.
Its really based on being in the community and helping people have access to information, services and providing support to an under-served community, said Moore, 49, who began her career in animal welfare as an animal cruelty investigator in another state.
After extensive data analysis, the Humane Society targeted the 28212 zip code as its initial focus area. People generally are receptive, but developing relationships and trust are key, according to Moore.
The outreach was made possible by a $40,000 grant from PetSmart Charities.
The success of the program has required countering some of societys old judgments about pet ownership. Moore said a prevailing attitude used to be, If somebody cant afford a pet, they shouldnt have one.
That idea is unrealistic, she said, because people are still going to have animals and need support. The Humane Society uses foster homes and volunteers more than ever.
Betty Butcher has been providing a foster home for puppies for the Humane Society for eight years. She said she keeps a scrapbook for each year, complete with pictures of every puppy.
She said she and her husband, Jim, have fostered 150 puppies. They also have several dogs of their own, one of which has special needs due to a spinal problem.
Butcher said she would tell prospective volunteers, The animals need you.
Hope Yancey is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Hope? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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