By Erika Webb
The Volusia chapter of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is starting a S.P.C.A. group for young people ages 13-17.
Volusia S.P.C.A. Director Sally Combs said Youth S.P.C.A. members will have opportunities to work with animals at the kennel in Orange City, assist with adoption events and pet vaccination clinics, participate in the retirement home pet therapy program and engage in other animal related activities.
"We had a program like this years ago, in the late '80s or early '90s," Ms. Combs said. "But as the kids got older it kind of fizzled. There were parents involved and they took care of it, but the kids graduated, moved on and we never really got it revamped."
Ms. Combs said the S.P.C.A. of Volusia was established in 1977 to provide for the welfare of abandoned, injured and mistreated animals, and is staffed by volunteers. The no-kill, non-profit organization helps serve Lake and Flagler counties as well.
Youth S.P.C.A. volunteers will learn about pet care and work with veterinarians during S.P.C.A. events, possibly allowing them to acquire requisite volunteer hours for school, Ms. Combs said.
Aside from finding foster care and permanent homes for animals, volunteers work to increase awareness through public education. The S.P.C.A. provides affordable spay/ neuter services as well as low-cost vaccination clinics.
"We're at Petco every weekend and we're very active with the Manatee Festival," Ms. Combs said. "Whatever we're doing, they're welcome to help with. Some will be interested in nursing home pet therapy. Some will be more interested in medical and they will shadow a veterinarian."
Ms. Combs said Youth S.P.C.A. members also are welcome to shadow pet groomers who help the group by cleaning ears and clipping nails at the vaccination clinics.
Not every task will suit every youth volunteer, Ms. Combs explained.
She said she expects petting and grooming to interest younger members while those who are older may gravitate more toward medical-record maintenance and related duties.
"We had one girl who was 20 helping me do heartworm tests," Ms. Combs said. "The sight of blood almost made her faint, but she loves the paperwork end of it. She's taking classes at DSC for medical secretary and she developed a pet record form that really helps us. It looks a lot better than anything I ever had."
S.P.C.A. Volusia partners with Orange City, caring for the animals in the city's kennel across from the dog park on South Leavitt Avenue.
The Orange City Police Department manages animal control in the city, and Ms. Combs said her husband, a retired Orange City police officer, was the unwitting matchmaker 26 years ago for the city and his wife's animal-rescue concern.
"The police chief got wind that his wife was working with animals," Ms. Combs said. "They started bringing them to my house. They'd bring them to my door in the middle of the night. I couldn't keep them all at my house so I had a meeting with the city manager and the city established a little kennel to hold the animals."
Back then, she said, "they might have picked up one dog a month."
The S.P.C.A. Volusia continues to care for animals, in higher numbers, at the Orange City facility today.
"If they're not claimed in seven days they become S.P.C.A. animals, either cared for at the facility, placed in foster care or adopted out," Ms. Combs said.
She said the organization prefers to place them in foster care first to gain an understanding of each animal, their particular behaviors and personalities, in order to find the best permanent home.
Soon, the group will have pet adoption-events at the new Pet Supermarket in DeLand.
A formal meeting will be early this month to kick off the Youth S.P.C.A. program, Ms. Combs said. Parents will be required to attend in order to complete the paperwork necessary for enrollment.
"I'd like to see parents get involved, too," Ms. Combs said. "It's not a requirement of course. I know how that goes, I've been there. But it's important to have parent involvement."
Youth interested in volunteering should call the S.P.C.A. at (386) 748-8993.