Critters rule the day at SPCA

July 20, 1997


Staff Writer

Animal experts from near and far spent Sunday afternoon teaching pet owners and pet lovers how to keep scaly, furry and feathered friends happy.

At the Washington County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' annual Pet Education Fair and Open House in Hagerstown, the program was as much show as it was tell.

A timid brown squirrel saved from abandonment clung to a corner of his greenery-filled wire cage.

A barred owl and a great horned owl blinked their eyes and twisted their heads all the way around for a view of curious people standing behind them.


A red-faced turkey vulture stretched his black wings, while alert snakes in aquariums squiggled, showing their cream-colored bellies.

Those animals and more had been saved from harm or brought back to health by human hands.

"We are trying to educate, educate, educate," said Lori Davis, Washington County SPCA development coordinator. "Here's a dog, cat, owl or pig - here's how you take care of these living things. Learn and have fun doing it."

More than 15 displays attracted about 100 viewers, some of whom brought their own pets.

"We tried to get a real diverse group to provide resources to the public," said Shelly Moore, the SPCA's executive director.

Moore and volunteer coordinator Lisa Morrissette advocated pet massage. They said it's good for arthritic dogs - stimulating blood flow and relieving stiff joints.

Debbie Licari, receptionist at Cumberland Valley Veterinary Clinic, and assistant Rheeanna Reifel talked to people about flea control and manned a display of brochures, dog bones, catnip treats and balloons. They enjoyed the company of Scruffy, a white terrier-mix wearing a yellow bandana, who sat in the shade under their table.

Pet education is important "whether or not they own a pet. There's always someone you know with a pet," Licari said.

Some people's pets are pigs - pigs that don't stay little for long, said Dale Riffle, founder of Pigs A Sanctuary in Charles Town, W.Va.

"Pigs are fourth on the intelligence list. They have a brain capacity of a 2- to 4-year child. A fully grown pig weighs 150 pounds and lives 15 to 20 years. It boils down to having a 150-pound 2-year-old running through the house for 15 years. But they're wonderful pets if you're knowledgeable," he said.

"It's the place to be. Being a dog trainer, I'm definitely into pet education. People don't often realize what they're getting into - the care, expense and commitment a pet needs. It's very important to start with the young children," said Leeray Downs of Hagerstown.

Angela Tobery of Hagerstown brought children Zachary, 2, Keith, 4, and Dakota, 5, and friend Tina Desjardins.

Tobery said they came to look for their lost dog, but they left and brought the children to the fair.

"I think (the fair) should be done more often. And people should bring their children - children are the ones that find the animals."

She said she was amazed at the number of abused animals taken in by the SPCA.

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