Animal Talk: Who we are, what we do

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 28, 2016

My name is Bob Pendergrass and I would like to introduce you to myself and this new column that we plan to write monthly for the Salisbury Post. First of all, many thanks to the Post for allowing us to extend the services that Rowan County Animal Services provides to Rowan County citizens. Now through this article we can reach out to all of the many Salisbury Post readers. And thank you personally for taking a moment to read through our words here.

Next, let me tell you who we are and why we are here in the pages of the Post and then offer what we hope to provide through this column.

Animal Services is a county government department that provides public services that involve animals and animal issues. We are three sub-departments in one: Rowan Animal Shelter, Rowan Animal Enforcement, and Rowan Nature Center.

Rowan Animal Shelter and Animal Enforcement in the past has formerly been known as Animal Control. These two sub-departments work mostly with domestic animal issues. Sometimes they deal with wildlife issues as they relate to citizen safety concerns. Most counties in North Carolina have a similar department. Many are part of their Health Department, some fall under law enforcement — be it through city police or county sheriff departments — and some are standalone departments like us. Originally, they were set up to address concerns related to rabies, enforce domestic animal regulations, and later to deal with domestic animal cruelty investigations. Many also evolved into what we are now to include an animal shelter.

Rowan Animal Shelter works, along with the tremendous help from citizen rescue and foster groups, to help address the problems of unwanted pets, reuniting owners with displaced pets, and working towards finding a solution to the pet overpopulation issue.

The Nature Center was born back in the 1970s as a tool to provide education about nature and our local natural environment to the many visitors at Dan Nicholas Park. Back in the early days of the park’s development, Boy Scouts were used (and still are) to do some of the minor development projects. These Scouts were clearing trails, picnic sites, planting trees and providing a lot of sweat equity to benefit our park. In doing so, they would catch lizards, snakes and other wonderful critters and bring them to Parks Director Jim Foltz. He would show off their efforts in simple displays in the only building at the time, which is now our concessions stand by the lake. That grew into the Nature Center, Wildlife Adventures and Stanback Barnyard that we have today.

All of these pieces of the Animal Services puzzle have two things in common. The first is obvious — animals. The second may be not as obvious. All three involve an effort to provide an educational resource about “animals” to our local citizens.

It is the goal of this column to let the Post readership get to know us better, let you know what we do and also why we do it, and to use the many years of accumulated knowledge of our staff to help you understand animals and nature a little bit better. We hope to talk about the domestic animal population issue. We hope to talk about how we can better serve you and your pets and how you can find the resources to be a better pet owner. We want to talk about how you can support and nurture the wildlife in our community big backyard of Rowan County. Maybe we can even address some of the concerns that folks have about wildlife in their backyard.

All of these things “animal” are what we at Animal Services love — be it dogs, cats, horses, snakes, bears, eagles, etc. We want to share that. It is our hope that we can not only share what we do know through this column, but also use it to look back inside of ourselves and find out what more we can do for the people and animal citizens of Rowan County as a department and as a community, together with you. We might even throw in some fun or unique experiences from time to time. Say for example the time long ago that I walked up to a parent who had not yet read the sign telling their child that our late albino raccoon, Alfred, was certainly a “baby camel.”

We want to welcome you to also visit us off of these pages in real life. Please come adopt a pet in need of a new home with a loving owner. And please come visit the Nature Center facilities with your family or friends — meet some of our non-human friends that are not domestic animals. Look for us in future Salisbury Post pages.

Pendergrass is director of Rowan County Animal Services.