University City

Website helps homeless animals

The goal is to lower the number of homeless animals in the region – especially healthy, adoptable pets – that are euthanized every year.

But the first step for the Pawsitively Connected website is to direct area pet owners to affordable animal care, organizers said.

Pawsitively Connected founders Lauren Gibilaro, of Waxhaw, and Sally Daggett, of Huntersville, recently launched the site hoping to become “a one-stop shop” for pet owners, Gibilaro said.

The women, who both have a background in animal welfare, met earlier this year while doing volunteer work to help pets in kill shelters be transported to facilities that don’t euthanize animals.

Gibilaro said she’s been working with Spay Neuter Charlotte about a year and was surprised how difficult it can be for pet owners to find information about local pet services, such as low-cost spay and neuter programs or where to get certain vaccines if their pet has already been spayed or neutered.

The Pawsitively Connected website currently lists not-for-profit clinics that provide affordable wellness services within 25 miles of Charlotte, Gibilaro said, noting the site also can be helpful to pet owners in surrounding counties such as Gaston, Catawba, Cabarrus and others.

Pet owners can expect regular updates to the site, as well as the Pawitively Connected Facebook page, about the different specials clinics offer, such as low-cost spay/neuter or breed-specific adoptions.

Daggett, who serves as the site administrator, said she experienced how hard it is to find clinics that offer low-cost spay/neuter services when she moved to the area from New York about four years ago.

“It’s not easy to find them,” she said. “(Pawsitively Connected) is trying to pull together this information so people wouldn’t have to try to research it on their own … Many people don’t spay or neuter their animals because they think it’s too expensive, and it is.”

Knowing which clinics offer low-cost services or are running specials can result in huge cost savings, Daggett said. She rescued two kittens in September and said if she’d gone the traditional route for vaccines and spaying, it would have cost hundreds of dollars per kitten.

“I took advantage of a special and for both to be tested, have all their vaccines and be spayed, it was a little over $200,” Daggett said.“You can see (for) people who wouldn’t normally be able to afford that, this is a great thing.”

By easily connecting pet owners with affordable wellness services, Gibilaro said, fewer animals will be abandoned or become homeless.

“We really need to reform the system in Charlotte because thousands and thousands of pets are euthanized each year and it can be resolved,” Gibilaro said. “We need to be a more humane community.”

For fiscal year 2013, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Animal Care and Control had more than 16,000 animals come into its facilities, and 56 percent, more than half, were euthanized, according to their website. The rest were adopted, transferred to another facility or reclaimed by their owners.

Gibilaro used Lincoln County as a positive example after county commissioners unanimously adopted a no-kill policy for the county’s animal shelter in November. The vote to move toward the No Kill Equation is a nationally-recognized approach that aims to save 90 percent or more of healthy, adoptable animals. Supporters of the commissioners’ vote said Lincoln County’s municipal shelter will be the first in the state to move toward becoming a no-kill facility.

“If Lincoln County, (with) a nice, small town can do it, why can’t big city Charlotte get it done?” Gibilaro asked. “Other communities have done it and were successful.”

In the future, Daggett said, the site will expand its listings to include agencies and resources about how to prevent losing your pet – and where to look if that happens – the importance of adopting instead of buying a pet, with information about adoption agencies, and where to look for help with behavioral problems.

“We want to make positive connections between pet owners and (resources) in the community, to deter people from surrendering their pets,” Gibilaro said. “There are solutions to any kind of pet problem they have. We hope people will reach out to these resources before giving up on their pet.”

Once those additional elements are in place on their site, Daggett said, the radius of included not-for-profits and clinics will grow to 50 miles around Charlotte.

As word about Pawsitively Connected spreads, Daggett said, they hope to gain volunteers who can help make it possible to grow the site’s content listings and geographic area at the same time.

While the site is still new, Daggett said, she and Gibilaro plan to attend community events – and possibly schools and libraries – so the information will reach as large an audience as possible.