June 5, 2006 – For more than 30 years, the St. Croix Animal Welfare Center has worked to improve the quality of life for both the animals and people of St. Croix.
With only nine paid staff members, the shelter depends greatly on volunteers. Development Director Carole Wells stated that volunteer work done here is a labor of love. "Oftentimes, children will be required to perform community service at the shelter and then will come back because they develop such a passion for the animals," she said.
Many area vets, such as Drs. Duke Deller, Paul Hess and Stacia Boswell, also volunteer their services to the shelter. Wells notes that the shelter cannot afford a full-time vet.
The shelter receives animals every day that they must try to care for and place in loving homes. Sometimes these animals are battered and have been treated poorly. According to Wells, it is then the shelter's job to re-establish the animal's trust with humans.
"Generally, we find foster homes for the mistreated animals to teach them how to live in a healthy environment," Wells explained.
And animals aren't the only ones who benefit from the shelter. Children with temper problems are frequently brought in to work with the animals in order to learn how to be gentle and respectful of life.
In addition, each school year a program coordinator goes out to area schools to teach children about correctly caring for pets. Students also get a chance to learn about the importance of spaying and neutering animals.
"In the last year over 3,000 animals have been dropped off at the shelter, with only 800 finding new homes," Wells stated. She stressed that pets must be spayed and neutered in order to control the rising stray population. "The shelter, which has a maximum occupation of 125 animals, is almost always full," she said.
On St. Croix alone, there are an estimated 60,000 cats and dogs. With the surplus of animals, Wells explained that there are not many places for them to go, especially on a small island.
For that reason, the clinic has initiated the Pets From Paradise program, where locals or vacationers escort animals to adoption centers on the U.S. mainland. Wells noted that in the states there is an enormous shortage of adoptable animals in shelters coupled with an overwhelming demand.
Although the program is helpful, Wells would like to see more local adoptions. "If pet owners take it upon themselves to have their pets fixed, then we will not have to send the animals away," she said.
Because the stray population is a fast-growing problem, the center really depends on the pro bono services of area vets. Wells had special praise for Boswell and her team, who have continuously agreed to volunteer their services.
"These vets definitely see that there is a need," Wells said, while explaining that a male and female cat procreating for eight years can produce thousands of offspring.
For this reason, the shelter will hold a free spay and neuter clinic Sunday, June 11, for those who meet eligibility requirements. Wells said that if a pet owner qualifies for government assistance, then he or she can receive the service free of charge.
Otherwise, the clinic is offering to fix animals at comparatively low costs. With the low price voucher, pet owners can get their male cats neutered for $25, while female cats can be spayed for $35. Their canine counterparts will cost $45 and $50, respectively.
Appointments for the clinic must be scheduled by Thursday, June 8. To schedule an appointment or for more information, call the shelter at 778-1650.
Also of note, the center is holding its 30th annual Clambake fund-raiser Sunday, July 9 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at The Palms at Pelican Cove, formerly the Cormorant Hotel.
Tickets go on sale June 9. Adult tickets are $30 and children under 12 are $10. Patrons can look forward to clams, shrimp, chicken, veggie burgers and live entertainment.
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