Fort Bragg Soldiers Help Cumberland County Animal Shelter

Residents looking to adopt a pet may find that their new addition can join the family sooner through a partnership between Cumberland County and Fort Bragg.

Soldiers in the First year veterinary studies diploma program helps sterilize and neuter the shelter’s dogs and cats through a partnership program that began about six months ago.

Previously, Dr. April Kelly, veterinarian for Cumberland County Animal Shelter, averaged five to six surgeries per day on her own.

Today, about 20 procedures are completed on the days the soldiers come to the aid, Kelly said.

This means the animals can be adopted sooner and more space is freed up for the arrival of new animals, Kelly said. She said that every day between 75 and 100 animals are offered for adoption.

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“The ideal situation is to sterilize them and sterilize them before they are adopted,” Kelly said. “That way there is no lag, because it sucks someone will come and say, ‘This is my animal’, and then we say, ‘Oh wait, you can’t bring him back. at home because it is not fixed. “”

Recovery time after procedures takes 10 to 14 days, she said.

Captain Miriam Firth, left, and Captain Jared Ashworth, right, both of the Fort Bragg Veterinary Services, work to neuter a shelter dog at Cumberland County Animal Services on Wednesday, June 30, 2021.

Fort Bragg’s first-year veterinary education program has been around since about 2011, and Fort Bragg is one of seven Army sites for the program, said Lt. Col. Jake Barnoski, clinical instructor for the program.

It falls under the Fort Bragg public health activity.

Barnoski described it as similar to a graduate internship with most soldiers arriving straight from vet school.

Prior to this year, soldiers in the program worked on duty to help treat pets brought to the veterinary clinic by servicemen and army dependents, or occasionally checked army working dogs.

Earlier this year, Barnoski received an email from Kelly asking if the soldiers wanted to help. Barnoki thought the program would be a good experience for the soldiers.

“The refuge here has been a huge blessing to us, because surgery is like any other skill, and you just get better with repetition, and so we can get a lot of reps here in a day and help them at the same. time, “he said.

With five Soldiers currently in the program which will run for about a year, each will perform about four to five surgeries each day they are at the Cumberland County Animal Shelter, Barnoski said.

They are required to have completed approximately 25 during the one-year program.

“When they leave here and go to their next job, they will be expected to run the clinic,” Barnoski said.

Captain Miriam Firth, who was at ROTC during his undergraduate studies, was commissioned in 2016 and was granted a tuition period by Army Reserves to attend veterinary school.

She arrived at Fort Bragg last year.

“I’ve always wanted to be a vet since I was 7,” Firth said as she worked to sterilize a dog at the Cumberland County Animal Shelter Wednesday. “I think it was the first year that I dressed up as a vet on Halloween.”

Fort Bragg Veterinary Services Captain Miriam Firth works on neutering a shelter dog at Cumberland County Animal Services on Wednesday, June 30, 2021.

Captain Claire Squires is also on the program.

With a master’s degree in natural resource ecology, Squires said she worked in a veterinary practice at night while on a wildfire management program.

“At one point I thought maybe I should make this my full-time gig instead of my side job,” Squires said.

With an enlistment in the military after receiving a scholarship to veterinary school, she commanded in 2017 and arrived at Fort Bragg in December.

Squires said she has learned that different undergraduate veterinary education program sites have aspects unique to their programs.

“Like here we have special forces and a large civilian affairs population, so it’s quite unique for us to be at Fort Bragg and to be able to interact with these vets and understand what they’re doing and working with them. and their dogs. ”Squires said as he worked to neuter a cat Wednesday at the Cumberland County Animal Shelter. “I think this refuge medicine program here – I don’t know if any of the other sites do.”

Veterinary technicians Rebecca Hamer and Carly Roche, who are Department of the Army civilians, assisted Firth and Squires during the procedures on Wednesday.

Hamer said their role is to help prepare for procedures and monitor the animals’ heart rates during procedures.

Roche has been a technician of the program since its inception. She said that although she has tried her hand in other areas, she has always enjoyed working with animals.

“I like going to work every day because it’s something I like and don’t feel like working,” she said.

Fort Bragg Veterinary Services Captain Claire Squires watches a pair of cats as animal health technician Carly Roche prepares them for sterilization at Cumberland County Animal Services on Wednesday, June 30, 2021.

Roche, an Army reservist, was working for a contract working dog company in 2011 when asked if she would be interested in the Army program.

“I feel like we’ve grown so much and have done a better job of preparing soldiers for other service sites just by adding a few things,” Roche said. “Like this year, for sure, I think it’s great for them to have surgery rotations at the shelter.”

By the end of July, Firth and Squires will complete the program and travel to Florida and Colorado for their next assignments.

Then a new set of interns will arrive to help out at the shelter.

Barnoski said other units at Fort Bragg such as the 248th Veterinary Services Support Medical Detachment and Civil Affairs units are also sending their officers and technicians to the shelter for training.

In a county press release that announced the partnership, Animal Services Director Elaine Smith said the help was appreciated.

“They dramatically increase our ability to provide quality care to these animals,” Smith said. “They also help us prepare the animals for adoption much faster, so they don’t have to spend extra days here at the shelter. It’s also great to see the extra experience these vets gain so they can keep their surgical skills at the highest level.

Editor-in-Chief Rachael Riley can be reached at [email protected] or 910-486-3528.

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