Some 50 fifth grade students at Covington Street Elementary School finished a crash course in animal awareness on Monday.
The Pet Responsibility Education Program, sponsored by the Scotland County Humane Society and taught by volunteers, began at Covington Street in April, with weekly classes for each fifth grade class in the school.
This has been the program’s first year in a Scotland County school, but has been in use in Moore County, where it was founded, since 2008. The program aims to teach students how to properly care for their pets as well as introducing them to the problem of animal overpopulation.
“We learned that spaying and neutering your pet is very important to stop overpopulation,” said student Quanise McQueen.
“We learned that one unaltered female dog can produce 67,000 puppies in six years,” added Sana Navaid. “The program was fun - I really liked it.”
Students were challenged to write a short essay detailing what they learned through their pet responsibility classes. The winner was recognized on Monday, the last of six class meetings.
Of the 10 students who submitted essays, Mira Ward was the winner. Her essay recapitulated the importance of spaying and neutering pets, although that was far from the only topic covered in the class. Class topics included the costs of adequately caring for a pet, animal safety, and law enforcement and service animals.
“We also learned things to do if you meet a dog or see a dog that might look aggressive,” said Mira, who has three dogs and two cats at home herself. “You should tell an adult about it and try not to make eye contact.”
Overall, the program aimed to help students become more aware of their responsibility toward the animals in their lives.
“There are so many things that you can do with animals and for animals,” Kathy Murphy, president of the Scotland County Humane Society, told the students. “The one thing that we’d like for you to take away from this is - be an advocate for animals. If you see something that is happening that is wrong, what should you do? Speak up, because they can’t speak for themselves.”
Monday’s class was also visited by representatives from the Laurinburg Police Department. Accompanied by Wise, his four-legged partner in fighting crime, K-9 Officer James Munger spoke to the students about the specialized tasks that police dogs perform.
Munger also gave the students advice about forming partnerships with their own dogs or dogs they may own in the future.
“For those of you who have dogs at home, train your dogs to sit and mind and behave and not to jump on people and not to run down the road when you let them out of the house,” Munger said. “You have to start with them when you’re little, and you will not believe the pride you will take in having a dog that you’ve trained and you’ve taught to do well, because he could possibly save your life or you could save his life by training him. I see a lot of dogs that run away, get hit by cars, or get maimed, and we have to take them to the animal shelter. They do the best they can to help every dog they get, but a lot of dogs would not be there if their owners had just trained them and spent more time with them other than just feeding them and putting water in a bucket.”
Humane Society volunteer Marcie Nor, who instructed most of the Governor’s Service Award-winning curriculum, said that the Covington Street students seemed receptive to the program.
“They seemed very engaged in it, it was very age-appropriate,” said Nor. “They were very involved, they were eager to answer questions and eager to ask questions. Reading the essays, you could tell that they really got it.”
“I liked the program because you got to learn a lot more than you would know about dogs and cats and other animals,” said student Anna Blount. “I got one of my pets from the humane society, and from that I learned that you have to take care of them, but you don’t have to do a lot to take care of them - it’s just love and care.”
The Humane Society hopes to expand the Pet Responsibility Education Program to classes in other schools in the coming years. The organization will teach a condensed version of the course at Laurel Hill Elementary School’s summer reading program in June.