01/30/06 — A child’s example: 11-year-old demonstrates leadership on animal shelter

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A child’s example: 11-year-old demonstrates leadership on animal shelter

A few hundred thousand dollars for a new animal shelter might seem like a bit of an extravagance for a community facing a pretty substantial bill simply to get work done in its schools.

So, there might be more than a few people who wonder why anyone is this worried about stray animals when there are children in need of new school buildings.

And they are right in one sense, fixing the school facilities problem should be one of the county’s top priorities as 2006 heads into its second month.

After all, it might be nice to have a 2005 budget before it is time to get serious about talking about the 2006 plan.

But if you really want to know why Wayne County needs a new animal shelter, all you have to do is talk to 11-year-old Hannah West. The home-schooled student only needed a photo of a little lonely dog cowering in the corner of a cage to understand that sometimes a community is judged not only by its big projects, but by how it treats those who cannot speak for themselves.

Hannah decided to ask for donations to help build a shelter rather than birthday presents for herself. Last week, she donated $100 — a pretty substantial sum for a child of any age.

And she was not alone, either. The Health Occupation Students of America club at Southern Wayne High School was also motivated to respond by seeing the story on the shelter. They donated funds, too.

A few weeks ago Commissioner Jack Best challenged animal lovers across the county to raise funds for a new shelter. And while there is nobility in the suggestion, it does not get the commissioners off the hook.

The county should be willing to devote a certain amount of funding to right a wrong that has been allowed to worsen over the years. Although no one is responsible for the terrible conditions at the shelter — age takes its toll on buildings — it is time for the county’s leaders to step and get the job done of repairing the structure or building a new one. And, thankfully, most of them have already said the new shelter is on their priority list.

There is nothing wrong with asking the community to donate money, but that should be used for the frills at the shelter — adoption areas, leashes, bowls, a spay and neuter program, education classes, or anything else that would turn an austere building into a place that fosters adoptions.

That, along with volunteering at the shelter, is how the community should contribute to this cause.

The rest is the responsibility of the county’s leadership and, by extension, its taxpayers.

Hannah taught us all a lesson about stepping up for a cause you believe in. Now it is our turn to live up to her example — and to applaud our leaders for doing the same.

Published in Editorials on January 30, 2006 10:58 AM