03/26/13 — Shelter restarts volunteer program

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Shelter restarts volunteer program

By Steve Herring
Published in News on March 26, 2013 1:46 PM

Volunteers who have not been allowed to work at the Wayne County Animal Adoption and Education Center since the first of the year are expected to return by late April or early May -- but with better training and a deeper understanding of what the job entails.

They will be returning under a revamped and more structured program designed to help better control disease at the center. The program also will require more training, particularly in how to handle the animals.

"It is going to be a whole new program, so there will be a new application, new manual," Wayne County Animal Control Director Vickie Falconer said. "Even the old volunteers will have to go back through the new program.

"I am looking forward to getting it back. I am looking forward to working with the people again. It gets the community back in."

Volunteers are an important part of the center's work, said County Commissioner Bill Pate, a member of the Animal Control Advisory Board. Their help is vital, but at the same time, they have to understand that they must follow certain procedures, he said.

When the advisory board made the decision late last fall to suspend the use of volunteers, the idea was not to make it permanent, he said.

The decision was driven by two factors -- the safety of the animals and public safety, Pate said. The concern was that the existing program made it too easy for disease to spread.

"Vicki has set a standard operating procedure so that people can be trained," Pate said. "It is a great idea."

Mrs. Falconer said the people who volunteered previously at the center were dedicated and that she knew it had been difficult for them not being able to help take care of the animals.

"It was by no means anything against the volunteers. When it first closed, there was a lot of negative, 'Why are you doing this?' type of thing and that I was punishing them. I think they thought it was closed for good. I was looking out for them, looking out for the animals. I had to get everything put together.

"There were some questions because community service (workers) still came. But anybody who has come into the building since January, they are not touching the animals. They are doing janitorial stuff. No once has been in real contact with the animals like the volunteers had before."

"We are like a random source facility, which means we have dogs that we do not know what they have been exposed to," Mrs. Falconer explained. "They may not have signs here, but they can shed stuff (disease) through their fur.

"So if you get it on your clothes you can transfer it. That is where there will be a more disease control section of the training also so they are aware exactly of how this stuff is spread."

Mrs. Falconer said that the volunteer program had been lacking in structure when she took over.

"The volunteers who came in every day knew what to do, they knew what not to do," she said. "But they would come in and would play with the dogs. They would play with the cats. There wasn't a lot of structure."

The concern, she said, was that such contact was a contributing factor in the spread of disease.

The center staff and Wayne County Animal Control Advisory Board met with a veterinarian from the N.C. State University College of Veterinary Medicine and the decision was made to "stop and completely redo" the volunteer program, she said.

Mrs. Falconer has since completed a day-long volunteer training program that she said gave her good ideas on how to structure the program. She also was able to listen to people from other shelters as to how they operated their volunteer programs.

Potential volunteers will be required to undergo training on animal care. Once that has been completed, they will shadow a staff member.

"Before they can do anything by themselves they will have to be signed off on by either myself or a staff member. That way I will know that they can do this and that they can do it by themselves."

Volunteers also will be used for some office work.

"There is a lot to make this building run and make the program more efficient," Mrs. Falconer said.

Along with the training, volunteers will be required to complete an orientation program as well.

"They are going to learn more about the euthanasia and everything that goes on here," she said. "You tell them about it, but I guess they don't really think about it. Then when it starts, they are volunteers and their hearts are to help the animals, and when we have to euthanize, they don't handle it very well.

"This way it will get through that if they don't think that they can handle it, maybe this is not the best way for them to volunteer for the animals. They are other ways -- maybe to foster with a rescue. Maybe a different way than coming here."

Volunteers also be required to commit to 12 hours a month.

"That gives me dedication," she said. "If they can give you 12 hours a month that is more of a dedication. They are here to help."

Mrs. Falconer is hoping to get the training in April or May. Currently the Animal Control Advisory Board is reviewing the center's revised manual.

Volunteers will be notified the program is restarting, she said.

People who want to volunteer can pick up application at the center or download from the county website, www.waynegov.com.