Grant used to help Cullowhee dogs

The volunteers at Humane Society of Jackson County, also known as ARF, has made it their mission to educate Jackson County about the importance of spaying and neutering animals. ARF has taken their message one step further and secured a grant from the PetSmart Charities Foundation for $20,000. The money is used to spay and neuter dogs in Cullowhee at no cost to the animal owners.

One of the puppies leaving on the Northern animal transport through the Jackson County Humane Society. This program places unwanted animals in Jackson County. Photo by Heather Mason.

PetSmart Charities has given more than $165 million in grants and programs to help animal-welfare organizations. Due to their generosity, more than 5 million animals have been saved nationwide.

ARF applied for the grant in 2012 and they targeted Cullowhee as their focus. ARF had to collect census data on the targeted area that included income and population numbers. They also had to have some hope of impacting at least 60 to 70 percent of the population of unaltered dogs. This would have been harder to accomplish with cats because the numbers are much greater.

“We couldn’t target a place like Whittier or Downtown Sylva, since they aren’t broken out separately from the greater Sylva area on the census,” said Mary Adams, Vice President of ARF and WCU professor. “We are too small of a group with too small of an annual budget to handle all of Jackson County. That is why we decided on Cullowhee.”

Other factors that were presented on the grant application were that Cullowhee is a rural area that has been hit hard by the recession. According to recent census data , over 40 percent of the individual Cullowhee residents, excluding full-time WCU students, live below the poverty line. The grant money will mainly target large-breed dogs such as hound, lab  pit-bull breeds and mixes. Studies have shown that these large breed animals make up approximately 73 percent of the animals that have been surrendered to shelters or euthanized in this area.

The members of ARF are hopeful that the residents of Cullowhee will take advantage of this grant to help reduce the pet population in the area.

“This is a really good offer and one that will end when the grant monies run out,” said Veronica Nicholas, President of the Humane Society of Jackson County.

The free sterilizations are aimed at puppies and dogs ages two months to eight years. The surgeries are performed by Asheville Human Alliance. A van picks the approved animals up at the ARF headquarters in Sylva and takes them to Asheville. The animals return to Sylva the following day. Rabies vaccinations are also offered free of charge for dogs having the surgery. ARF hopes to assist in the free sterilization of 340 dogs in Cullowhee over a two year time period.

This program is only one of many that the Humane Society of Jackson County offers. Animal fostering programs, adoption and low-cost spay/neuter assistance are services provided by the dedicated volunteers. ARF works with local veterinarians and Asheville Human Alliance to spay and neuter 22,000 animals every year. Locally, the community shows support, by attending fund raisers and making to donations to ARF. A major fundraiser appropriately named “Woofstock”, described as a “love-in for dogs”, will take place at Bridge Park in downtown Sylva on Saturday,  May 4. This event will be a huge fundraiser for the organization and all of the money raised will benefit ARF and its role in rescuing, fostering, and transporting local animals.

Follow this link for a continuation of this story with ARF Transport Day on April 25