Local News

Program teaches kids responsible pet ownership

Posted March 8, 2013

— The fourth-graders at Vass-Lakeview Elementary School put down their pencils Thursday to play with a golden retriever named Bonnie and Ivan, the German shepherd.

But it wasn’t recess. The pups were the stars of a special class designed to help the youngsters understand what it means to be responsible pet owners.

“Overpopulation in the area is terrible. Animals are euthanized daily,” said Kristine Staples, Ivan’s owner and a volunteer teacher with the Citizens’ Pet Responsibility Committee in Moore County.

The committee is made up of more than 50 volunteers who offer a six-session program on pet ownership to all fourth-grade classes in public schools. By Staples’ count, they’ve talked to more than 1,000 kids in the five years of the program.

“Fourth grade seems to be the age they really understand what is happening,” she said. “They are at the time when they have responsibility at home where they have to feed the dog or cat, or water the dog or cat.”

dog Students learn responsible pet ownership skills

Angela Zumwalt, who co-chairs the committee, agreed.

“Students can take home a message. They can talk about that message, and it stays with them the rest of their lives,” she said.

The students learn about spaying, neutering, care and grooming. Staples said the ultimate goal is to teach the next generation and help reduce the number of unwanted animals that end up in shelters or euthanized.

“It can be very expensive to take care of your pet, and it’s OK not to have a pet,” she said. “Dog food is expensive, cat food is expensive, hay is expensive. And I don’t think people realize what they’re taking on an animal.”

The message seemed to be sinking in with the students.

“I learned that you need to spay and neuter them, make sure that they get their shots,” 9-year-old Bradley Maloof said. “You need to have a leash and tags and stuff for them.”

When asked why love animals, 9-year-old Avery Meredith offered a simple, honest answer: “Because they keep you company and, like, they can make you happy.”


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  • kermit60 Mar 11, 2013

    laurenfedorov: You are obviously against euthanization, however if this was not done what would you suggest they do with hundreds, possibly thousands of these unwanted animals let alone budgeting to care for them?

  • Dan Cooper Mar 8, 2013

    For some reason my unfixed male dog who is always leashed or indoors & never made a litter is the reason for the pet overpopulation???--Be a responsible pet owner and you won't necessarily need to spay/neuter your animal.---8 year olds who think they want a dog with little way to do so unassisted is just as much to blame for the problem too!

  • clickhere Mar 8, 2013

    As long as you city folk don't dump unwanted pets on us in the country, I'm all for you having pets.

  • laurenfedorov Mar 8, 2013

    I don't know about this group, but many such groups do not get government funding, ie taxpayer dollars, but exist on monetary and material contributions from the public alone.
    I too would prefer that a group like this get my taxpayer dollars, rather than groups that euthanize animals on a routine basis to make room for more animals also likely to be euthanized, but that is not the way our government officials have seen fit to do things. Municipal shelters, many of which routinely practice euthanization, do get taxpayer funds, which I think is wrong, as I believe it to be a moral wrong to euthanize healthy animals. I am and will remain adamantly opposed to this.

  • Terkel Mar 8, 2013

    I'd rather an org like this got tax money (and it probably does get a bit) than the animal shelter having to put animals down with tax money. And I'd sure rather it went to an org that tries to teach kindness and responsibility than some community activist groups that teach discontent and selfishness.

  • Lovey Mar 8, 2013

    I love it. These values can affect the way they raise their own children. It will nurture kindness and respect for others. You can spend all my tax dollars in Wake County on this. In fact I will donate to this project when it gets to Raleigh. Thanks for the good news WRAL.

  • beaupeep Mar 8, 2013

    I certainly hope none of my tax dollars are being wasted on this kind of ker-ap.

  • Canine Companion Mar 8, 2013

    Thank you for doing a piece on this wonderful project. I live in Moore County, and am so proud of the people who conceived this program and all the volunteers who make it work. I hope you post the video as well. Without education, no matter how hard we work, we will never be a "no kill" nation until children are taught at an early age to respect animals and that one of the major reasons our shelters are so full and animals don't get out of them alive is the failure to spay and neuter our pets. The fourth graders can teach their parents a thing or two from what they learn in this class. Glad the program is spreading to other counties. It is an approved curriculum, not just the whim of some people devoted to animals.