South Charlotte

Animal adoption changes a family

On a crisp fall day, dog coordinator Dana Page is on the move.

She darts from chatting with potential pet owners to checking in with volunteers.

For a brief moment, she stops to marvel at the Animal Adoption League event.

"This is a big day," says Page, watching crowds meet adoptable dogs looking for forever homes. One proud volunteer in particular draws kids of all ages to her adorable pit bull puppies.

Every dog has a story, especially these little ones.

Page, 49, and her 17-year-old daughter Audrey of Matthews have been with AAL for four years. They help rescued animals receive veterinary care and find temporary and permanent homes.

AAL volunteers host twice-monthly adoption events at PetSmart in Blakeney and feature adoptable dogs and cats on the AAL website, www.mynextpet.com.

Page, who fosters animals along with her own dogs, is passionate about responsible pet ownership.

"The biggest challenge is getting people to spay and neuter their dogs and cats and realize pets are a lifelong commitment," she said.

Unfortunately, many disregard this responsibility. According to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's Animal Care and Control, 11,790 animals - including wildlife - have been euthanized so far this year.

As a municipal shelter, Animal Care and Control must accept all abandoned animals.

Melissa Knicely, a CMPD Public Information Specialist, says certain animals are not adoptable because they are "aggressive and would be a danger to the public."

People also abandon pets because they are inconvenient. The former owner of Brandy, a sweet 7-year-old beagle/cocker spaniel mix, temporarily gave her to AAL but never returned to pick her up.

That neglect stunned Brandy's foster parents: Tomoko Deguchi, 45, and Ron Parks, 51.

"It's really sad because ... she's suddenly lost her family," said Deguchi.

AAL volunteer Beth Kelly, 39, of Indian Trail became a hero on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks: While driving to dinner, she spotted a sign selling pit bull puppies for $10.

Kelly, a veteran pit bull caretaker, stopped to investigate.

What she saw was chilling: Emaciated puppies stuffed in a pen matted with grass. Kelly said they were "the worst puppies I have seen."

Kelly paid the $10 and named the puppies Patriot, Liberty, Hope, Mercy, Freedom and Justice, in honor of American bravery after the Sept. 11 attacks. Although caring for them is hard work, Kelly said, "Not a second goes by ... that I didn't want to take those guys."

The puppies illustrate the problems of pet overpopulation.

"Many kittens and puppies are born just to be euthanized six-eight weeks later at the shelter," Page says. She said owners need to spay and neuter their pets.

Animal Care and Control offers a discounted licensing fee as an incentive; a one-year license costs just $10 for spayed and neutered pets, compared to $30 for fertile animals.

Senior citizens, owners with special-needs pets, and disabled pet owners with spayed or neutered animals can receive a free license.

Free spaying and neutering options are available. Page points to Spay Neuter Charlotte - www.spayneutercharlotte.com - as a low-cost resource.

Animal Care and Control also offers a free spay/neuter program for Mecklenburg County residents. Surgery appointments are booked in advance and clinics occur once a month. Pet owners can fill out applications on the Animal Care and Control page at charmeck.org.

The Humane Society of Charlotte also offers spay and neuter services at their newly renovated clinic at 2646 Toomey Avenue and at 8315 Byrum Drive. Additional services are available and financial assistance may be available. Details: spayneuter@humanesocietyofcharlotte.org or 704-333-4130.

Since the Oct. 15 AAL event, Kelly has adopted out then-11-week-old Liberty, Mercy and Hope, but there are still many animals, like Brandy, who need a loving home.

Before you find a new furry family member, Page says: "Adopt, don't shop, is the best policy."

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