Animal shelter workers trained as veterinary assistants | North Carolina News

By OLIVIA NEELEY, The Wilson Times

WILSON, N.C. (AP) — Wilson County animal law enforcement officers have a new tool in their toolbox.

Wilson County Animal Services Center manager Sgt. Rodney Harper and Adoption Coordinator Alyssa Whitney just became Certified Veterinary Assistants after completing a five-month program at Nash Community College.

“Sending them was a good way to evaluate the program and bring the information back to us to see how it would benefit the entire shelter,” Wilson County Sheriff Calvin Woodard said.

Certification is not typical for animal law enforcement officers to obtain. But after research and interviews with several experts, Woodard felt it would bolster his overall goal — to achieve kill-free animal sanctuary status.

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“We are leading the way,” he said.

Woodard said the extended training gives Harper and Whitney stronger knowledge and will help them quickly recognize and identify disease in an animal and be able to assess the animal’s temperament.

“With this knowledge and extensive training, they can make valuable decisions that can help save this animal instead of putting it down,” Woodard said.

It now provides for every animal law enforcement officer to obtain veterinary assistant certification. It’s not a current requirement for animal law enforcement officers, but Woodard believes in staying one step ahead.

Veterinary assistant certifications cost around $180 each. The Animal Law Enforcement Training budget paid for Harper and Whitney’s enrollment in the course.

Prior to the program, Whitney and Harper relied on the veterinarians they worked with regularly and their own knowledge of what they saw in the field to identify problems with the animals.

The veterinary assistant program has strengthened their skills.

“It brought it all together,” said Harper, who has worked in animal law enforcement for more than two decades.

Whitney and Harper said that while there were things they already knew, certain topics covered in the course helped them immensely.

For example, Whitney said the program helped her learn to identify worms in feces. Knowing how to spot worms and identify the type of parasite will help him determine the best way to treat the condition.

The program also taught them how to safely restrain an animal while performing a blood test that helps determine if the animal has heartworms, Lyme disease and even viruses such as parvo.

Whitney said she has a better understanding of the type of information shelter staff should pass on to the veterinarian, which will also help her communicate more effectively with animal rescue groups.

Whitney said she will be able to call these rescues to find out exactly what an animal is facing and how the groups can work with the shelter to improve the animals’ health and prepare them for adoption.

“With them going through this course and training, it helps us to be able to identify the problem before we put that animal in a wonderful home and later not have a situation where that dog has worms or situations. serious medical conditions,” Woodard said.

Woodard said he’s excited to bring new programs to the animal shelter, including a trap-neuter-return program for community cats.

Such programs allow animal protection officers to set traps on a complainant’s property. Once a cat is caught and neutered, it can be returned to the property and released.

A cat deterrent program is also in its infancy. This program will provide motion-activated ultrasound devices and sprinklers suggested by the Best Friends Animal Society, a national non-profit organization working with Woodard and the Sheriff’s Office to reduce euthanasia rates and help Wilson’s shelter. to become a no-kill facility.

“Before, we didn’t have the space or the opportunities,” he said. “A lot of things were limited because of the old structure. We didn’t have the technology that we have now. Going to a no-kill shelter, all of that will help us in that.

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