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Diplomat virtually adopts animal from ARC

By Staff | Feb 27, 2009

By MCKENZIE CASSIDY, mcassidy@breezenewspapers.com
During this academic quarter, students from Diplomat Elementary participated in a character education activity where each classroom virtually adopted an animal from North Fort Myers’ Animal Refuge Center.
For six weeks every classroom printed out a picture of a dog or cat available for adoption and on Fridays a new animal was filmed live on the school’s morning news. They also had lessons on caring for animals, how to approach an animal and other general animal safety topics.
“Caring for Critters goes along with the school theme of the Earth and environment,” said Erin Groenveld, assistant principal at Diplomat Elementary. “The outpouring is amazing, they took it very seriously.”
Students in character education also visited ARC and saw the animals at the facility. Dogs or cats are given free rein with room to walk and play on 24 acres and live in shelters with heaters when its cold and air conditioning during the summer.
Once an animal is boarded at ARC, it is given obedience training, given a microchip and either spayed or neutered. The shelter is no-kill, according to Lisa Morris, spokesperson for ARC, and never takes in more animals than it can handle.
“Because we are no-kill, we don’t take in more than we can handle, we’ve had many successful adoptions,” said Morris. “We had a record amount of adoptions in December and January.”
As the economy soured in 2008, many pet owners had to surrender their dogs or cats to local shelters because they were no longer able to care for them. Shelters across Lee County reported that they were at maximum capacity in January.
Friday morning hundreds of pet supplies lay on the stage in the school’s cafeteria. Morris said there were two to three SUVs full of dog food, cat food, treats, toys, crates and cleaning supplies.
Principal Linda Caruso said the school wants to repeat this program again next school year.
One fifth grade student was so taken by the animal her class sponsored she had her family adopt the 6-year-old dog. Scarlett Madgyesy’s family adopted “Moses,” a mix between a retriever and hound, even though older dogs are harder to place.
According to Scarlett, Moses likes to chase her cat and enjoys riding in the car.
Paula Johnson’s fifth grade class sponsored “Ringer” the cat and held a penny drive to support the animals at ARC along with Angie Wahoff’s class. Students filled three cylinders full of pennies and some even donated dollar bills.
“We were excited from day one,” said Johnson, who described how jubilant her class became every Friday when a new animal was broadcast on the school news.
Morris said the shelter hosts a lot of fund-raisers and activities in the community. Many students from Florida Gulf Coast University, who are required to do 80 hours of community service, volunteer at the shelter.
Also, ARC is trying to work with 44 food pantries across Southwest Florida to start a program where they carry food for animals as well as needy families. The Harry Chapin Food Bank will ideally head the program because it has the largest space, said Morris.
She added that 60 percent of the surrenders in Lee County are because of an owner’s inability to feed the animal.
“People are leaving their homes, someone can leave food so they don’t starve,” said Morris.
For more information on ARC, visit www.animalrefuge.com.