LUMBERTON — It doesn’t take a lot to save an abandoned animal in Robeson County.
“All you need is a home and a heart full of love,” said Kelly Ivory, manager of the Humane Society’s shelter, “and we provide the rest.”
The society needs foster families to provide temporary homes to cats and dogs that won’t squeeze into the society’s shelter at 3180 W. 5th St, which has room for about 60 cats and dogs. The society will provide crates, bowls, leashes and other necessary supplies.
Barbara McNeill is one of four foster parents helping out the society.
“I try to do my part and help by providing a home, and to give socialization regardless of how long it takes to find the animal a home,” said McNeill, who is currently caring for six dogs.
McNeill has fostered about 30 dogs from the Humane Society during the last three years, some of whom now provide companionship for people living at nursing homes.
“Seeing a dog respond to kindness and the change from timid, scared and damaged into a healthy giving member of the family makes it worth it to me,” said McNeill, who lives in Lumberton with her son. “Sometimes it’s just a matter of fostering briefly — a month or a week. We can’t have the little dogs in the shelter with the noises and the big dogs, so I take them home. Each foster dog touches my heart.”
She encourages more people to follow in her footsteps.
“It’s easy to get addicted to fostering dogs,” McNeill said. “It helps you be viable and make a difference in an animal’s life and your own. You’re giving the animals a second chance. Plus you get to reap the benefits of owning a loyal companion.”
McNeill said the animals often arrive scared and injured.
“I can’t bear to see the pain that has been inflicted on these animals,” she said. “These dogs are damaged gifts from God. It’s difficult to see (them) the way that I do when I first get them.”
About 15 of the society’s animals — some pulled from death row at the Robeson County Animal Shelter, and others dropped off by people who can no longer provide them care — are placed in permanent homes each month, according to Ivey.
Before any animal leaves their facility, a strict vetting process takes place.
“We look at the animals’ future living conditions with the potential family,” Ivory said. “We want to know if they have a fenced yard, what the owners’ work schedule is like, are there children in the home and many other things. We also require personal references. The last thing we want to do is set up an animal for failure in their new home. If the dog fails in the home, we fail as an organization.”
Before the animals leave, they are made current with all their shots.
Mark Schwarze, the new president of the Humane Society, said the organization is actively trying to find more foster homes.
“The process starts with responsible pet ownership,” he said. “Our main purpose is to find and help adoptable dogs go home with someone that will love and appreciate them. We will be focusing on expanding our education arm — something that has never really been focused on.”
Schwarze said the first step in expanding the education arm is setting up a volunteer educator position to teach proper pet ownership.
“The educator will teach to a wide range of people, such as middle schools, high schools, civic organizations — basically anyone who will listen to our message,” Schwarze said.
The Humane Society is a nonprofit and no-kill organization mainly run by volunteers. Schwarze said most funding comes from the public, the city and county, local businesses and annual fundraisers such as the annual Fur Ball. The next fundraiser is a golf tournament on April 18 at Pinecrest Country Club.
The society’s facility is complete with separate puppy and adult dog playrooms, a medical treatment room and enough kennels for 35 dogs and 25 cats. There is a secluded meeting room where potential animal owners can spend time with animals they are considering adopting.
“… That way they can get to know one another,” Ivory said. “We’re matching the personality of the animal with the family. And of course, we are looking out for the best interests of the animal.”
The Humane Society encourages pet owners to spay or neuter their animals. Local animal advocates blame Robeson County’s large population of unwanted pets on too many stray and fertile animals. The result has been that thousands of animals each year end up euthanized at the county shelter, a number that has been decreasing as adoption efforts have increased. But spay and neuter programs are critical, Schwarze said.
“Part of our primary mission is to teach people the importance of fixing their animals,” he said.
According to Joan Bowen, the head of the Spay and Neuter Committee at the Humane Society, spaying and neutering pets is the only long-term solution to prevent the continuation of animal overpopulation. Bowen said low-income families can call 910-671-3205 for information regarding a $15 spay or neuter of their pets at a veterinarian of their choice.
Another initiative started by the Humane Society to make dogs more adoptable and ready for families is A New Leash On Life, which began in 2009. The program partners dogs with inmates at the Robeson Correctional Center, where they are trained daily.
“We take three animals who have been here the longest and bring them to the correctional facility and pair them with a suitable inmate,” Schwarze said. “The inmates then train the dogs in basic obedience — teaching them commands and manners.”
The cost to adopt a puppy is $250, while adult dogs are $200. The cost to adopt a cat is $100 regardless of age. To adopt an animal, call the Humane Society at 910-738-8282 or visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/robesoncountyhumanesociety.