Shelter coordinator takes tour of Picayune SPCA

Published 1:00 pm Friday, September 21, 2012

The successes at the Pearl River County SPCA location brought the Humane Society of the United States Shelter Services Coordinator in for a visit.

Sarah Matisak’s purpose was not only to see what the shelter was doing right, but to also make a few suggestions to help the shelter reach new areas of need.

The local SPCA has a number of programs that help cats and dogs find homes and live better lives, either through shots, spay and neuter programs and a transport program that brings dogs in need of homes to areas in the northern part of the country where adoptable dogs are in short supply.

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Matisak said her goal during her visit Thursday morning was to provide the local shelter staff with the educational and training resources they need to continue to solve the nationwide pet overpopulation problem.

Picayune’s shelter is one of the best in the state when it comes to implementation of new and successful programs, Matisak said. She cited the shelter’s use of PetSmart Charities to transport adoptable dogs to areas up north with a small number of such animals as one example.

Implementing that project was in part due to the efforts of Picayune SPCA Special Projects Manager Carla Gerrard. Gerrard said she also is working with residents in the north end of the county near Poplarville to provide population control measures to feral cat populations. Spaying and neutering those animals will help keep them healthy and prevent overcrowding.

“You could have the best program in the world but if you don’t use it, it’s worthless,” Gerrard said.

At times pet owners, not intending to be neglectful, don’t take advantage of certain services offered by the SPCA simply because they don’t know about them, Matisak said.

Since 2006 the local shelter has been working with area veterinarians to provide an avenue for low cost spaying and neutering. Gerrard said since the implementation of the program about 17,000 animals have been spayed or neutered as part of the program.

Picayune SPCA Director Judy Wheaton said Gerrard has been the go-to person at the shelter, and with just a little help she’s been able to accomplish things that seemed impossible.

For dogs with behavior problems the shelter also offers a behavior class. At $50 the eight week class is a deal, said Gerrard. Classes are held once a week, usually on a Saturday, and provide an avenue for dog owners to get a handle on behavior issues.

Gerrard said she has been participating in a program under Farm Sanctuary to provide them with information about local pit bull owners to help break the stigma of violence associated with the breed. Matisak said each dog breed, including pit bulls, need certain kinds of mental care, and providing them that attention and care is key to raising a healthy and happy pet.

Matisak said the local shelter could employ educational programs to help get the word out in areas with low income to promote proper care of all breeds, including pit bulls.

Low cost shots also are offered at the shelter, and pet owners can have a micro chip placed in the skin of their pet to help prevent the animal from becoming a lost pet.

Matisak had a few suggestions for Gerrard and Wheaton to help them increase their impact within the community, such as using more volunteers under the supervision of a paid coordinator. Also ,the addition of a behavior hotline for those who don’t have the time or money for the behavior class could help. In addition, the hotline could lead to increased enrollment in the behavior class.

Wheaton said the shelter is always looking for hardworking volunteers. Some possible avenues for volunteering include making flyers, grant writing and community involvement.

The Pearl River County SPCA is located on Palestine Road near the old airport.