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A Pet Project - Finding Loving Homes A Goal of Society

At first, they eyed each other warily. The meeting between Libby and Beast needed to be harmonious if they were to have a life together. Beast was a perfect gentleman, and Libby’s girlish snarls soon turned to playful nips.

Libby is a black and tan German shepherd. Beast, inappropriately named, is an amiable, young, black German shepherd housed at the Fayetteville Animal Protection Society shelter at 3927 Bragg Boulevard.

Russell and Kathleen Miller recently visited the kennel and considered bringing Beast home to live with Libby, also a rescue dog. The Millers first walked Beast on a lead in a grassy field adjacent to the kennel and were impressed with his obedience and mannerisms. The next step in the adoption process was to ensure Beast and Libby could get along. They met on neutral territory and seemed to pass the test. In the end, it was decided that Beast would have to wait on another family.

Chris Womack is a caring, no-nonsense Cajun from St. Martinsville, La. With the help of a staff of seven, she manages the shelter, which houses about 150 “adoptable” dogs and cats. Adoptable is the key word at the shelter. “We take what’s adoptable on a space-available basis,” Womack said. The mission of FAPS is to place animals in homes and not let them perish in a shelter cage.

According to Womack, “adoptable” is a dog, or cat, that isn’t aggressive or doesn’t display anxiety or frustrations and is in good health. The adoption process includes a tour by prospective owners to view available animals, a counseling session to ensure that the animal is paired with the appropriate home, and a required walk to ensure the animal and people are compatible. Additionally, if other pets are involved, FAPS requires a meeting of the animals in neutral territory.

In return, the person adopting a pet gets the animal’s medical history and the assurance from Womack that the animal is healthy. Before leaving the shelter, animals are treated for heartworms, given required vaccines and spayed or neutered. Additionally, each animal receives a microchip implant that will allow easy identification if the animal becomes lost or stolen. Above all, people walk away with a loving companion.

“We can afford to treat every animal because of the working relationships we have with area veterinarians,” she said. Womack worked as a veterinary technician in Lafayette, La., where she gained the experience to do much of the required doctoring at the shelter.

The adoption contract requires that new owners assume future medical care, and they must agree that the animal will not be tethered. The contract also allows FAPS to inspect the animal’s living conditions and recover the animal if the contract is not honored.

FAPS charges $95 to adopt dogs and $70 for cats. Puppies are first to be adopted, then kittens. Older dogs and cats trail, Womack said.

“There are no rules as to who gets to adopt. There is no one-size-fits-all. Each family is different, and we definitely don’t discriminate against seniors adopting animals,” said Womack, who herself recently adopted Ranger, a mellow German shorthaired pointer.

Animals come into the shelter in various ways. Some are dumped at the front gate. Some come from the Cumberland County Animal Control Department in its efforts to save adoptable dogs and cats from being euthanized. In fiscal 2007, the county’s animal shelter impounded 11,754 animals and euthanized 9,245. According to Womack, the county shelter tries to place as many animals as possible with FAPS.

Other animals are left behind where they are. Such was the case with Laurie, a year-old shepherd mix. Her owners simply abandoned her in the backyard when they moved. Nearby construction workers fed her until she was taken to the shelter.

Then there is Parish, a Labrador retriever mix. Parish survived Hurricane Katrina and was adopted by a soldier who brought her to Fayetteville. She again is available for adoption; her owner died serving his country.

The shelter began in 1982 as the Animal Haven of Cumberland County. Seven years ago a group of high-energy Fayetteville-area animal enthusiasts – both original and new members – took on the job of revitalizing the shelter. They renamed it Fayetteville Animal Protection Society, or FAPS, to more accurately reflect its service area and in part to alleviate confusion with a newly established shelter with a similar name in Hoke County.

Beegie Caviness is past president of the FAPS executive board. “We’re a hands-on board. We set policy, but more than anything, we raise money,” Caviness said. The $95 fee to adopt a dog is barely a break-even cost. “We’re making nothing off the animal. We live off donations and goodwill of the community.”

FAPS holds two yearly fund-raisers. One is the Holiday Benefit on the first Friday in November at Highland Country Club. For $35 each, benefactors can enjoy hamburgers and hot dogs with adult beverages and bid on items in a silent auction. The other fund-raiser is a springtime open house, and in the past FAPS has raffled off a car at that event.

Operating the shelter, paying staff and ensuring that every animal gets the necessary medical treatment costs about $250,000 annually, Caviness said. While the fund-raisers provide a large share of that budget, the remainder must come through donations from the public. Amazingly, the public has come through with both money and supplies to offset costs.

Caviness says the only way to reduce the number of unwanted dogs and cats is to spay and neuter and to make those procedures more affordable for pet owners with limited means. Additionally, she believes the county should increase the current tax levy for unaltered animals and go after the 30 percent of residents who fail to claim pets on their tax listings.