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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

There Oughta Be a Law: Q&A with Cheryl Woodcock

I hosted a nationwide conference call with thousands of animal advocates this weekend to announce the winner of the Humane Society Legislative Fund’s first-ever “There Oughta Be a Law” contest. Animal rescuer Cheryl Woodcock of Baldwin, N.D., joined the call, and I gave her the news that her proposal was selected by our panel of judges—Reps. John Campbell (R-Calif.) and Jim Moran (D-Va.) and myself—out of more than 3,500 other entries from all 50 states.

CherylwithKittens
The winner of HSLF’s 2009 “There Oughta Be a Law” contest,
Cheryl Woodcock, with her four foster kittens who were
found in a Dumpster.

Cheryl’s winning idea: a tax credit for spaying and neutering pets. It’s a timely and innovative proposal that incentivizes personal responsibility and encourages pet owners to do their part to help reduce pet overpopulation. “Cheryl’s Law” could become part of the solution toward ending the euthanasia of three million healthy and treatable dogs and cats each year in America’s animal shelters, and reducing the financial burden of animal care and control on local communities.

HSLF will bring Cheryl to Washington, D.C. to lobby for her bill. I had a chance to visit with her and want to share with blog readers a bit about her work and her winning entry.

Michael Markarian: Tell us about yourself and your animals.

Cheryl Woodcock: I am married with six kids. We live on 80 acres. We raise sheep, and Chesapeake Bay retrievers. We have three Scottie dogs, many farm cats, and a sheep herding dog, all of whom are spayed or neutered. Many of our cats and our sheep herding dog are rescues from the city pound. We have even rescued a few house birds. We also have horses, chickens, and calves. Currently, I work for two vet clinics and make homemade dog treats that I sell at some pet stores and at craft shows. Animals are my passion.

MM: What’s it like being an animal advocate and rescuer in rural North Dakota?

CW: Baldwin is a town of 736 people—a mostly rural population—although we have 18 families who live right in the town of Baldwin. We have a post office and a GREAT school. The school has grades K-8 with 15 students, two teachers, and a teacher’s aide. We fight a battle with the state legislature every two years—they try to close small rural schools and we fight to keep our schools open.

A few years ago, I was asked to help our local pound by raising an orphaned kitten. He needed to be bottle-fed. I took him home and he has been with me since. Right now, I have four kittens who were about two days old when they were tossed in a Dumpster at a gas station. A worker at the gas station found them and called the police. The police took them to the pound and I got a call from one of the animal wardens. I stopped at a store, bought formula and a bottle, and went to see my new friends. They were very frail and very, very cold. I really didn’t expect to see them all make it through the night. I had to feed them every two hours, day and night, for the first few weeks. My female Scottie dog, Maggie, helped care for them, by cleaning them for me. Luckily I was able to take them to work with me—I work for two vet clinics. They are growing and they just FINALLY started eating on their own. I will be looking for good homes for them in a week or so.

I am the person in the neighborhood who gets a call and takes the sickly animals from neighbors. I have gotten two sickly lambs and a calf and they have survived—for me. I love the challenge and the satisfaction of caring for them and watching them grow and flourish. I have even had baby lambs in my house when they were sick and too young to be outside. One lamb even walked around my house in a doggie diaper. I try to find homes for as many cats and dogs as I can. The city pound has a volunteer who is great at finding homes or rescue groups for the dogs who need homes. I am all about animals. I love animals.

MM: You have a pet treat business as well?

CW: Yes, the name is Farmer Tillie’s Homemade Dog Treats. I wanted to make quality wholesome dog treats for my Scottie dogs. I sell them in a few pet stores and at some craft shows. My dogs totally enjoy it when I make treats. They get to sample them. I have many satisfied returning customers.

MM: How did you hear about HSLF’s “There Oughta Be a Law” contest, and what made you enter?

CW: I was on Facebook one night, when I was up feeding kittens, and saw the ad for the contest. I thought I should enter. I was mad at what the abandoned kittens had to go through. I decided to enter because of the kittens and all the animals I see at the pound who look so lost and need homes. I hate it when animals have to be put down when there are no homes for them. It’s a better solution than them starving or freezing to death, but if there was an incentive for people to get their animals spayed or neutered, maybe this issue could become a thing of the past.

MM: Why is spaying and neutering dogs and cats so important to you, and how can a tax credit help?

CW: The reason I am so passionate about this issue is because of the tiny baby kittens I have taken care of. There are always abandoned animals at the city pound. Those who don’t get adopted or rescued get put to sleep. I hate seeing that as much as I hate seeing abandoned baby animals. I think if there was a tax credit for people to spay or neuter their animals, more of them would get spayed or neutered and there wouldn’t be so many abandoned animals. I think, in this day and age, with everyone looking for a way to save money, a tax credit would really make them think about it.

MM: Are you looking forward to your trip to Washington?

CW: I am TOTALLY excited about winning a trip to Washington, D.C. I have never been to that part of the U.S. I think it will be great to be able to see the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Vietnam Memorial Wall. It’s all so much a part of our history.

MM: Who are your federal legislators in Congress?

CW: Senators Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan, and Representative Earl Pomeroy. I would love to work with them in getting a bill passed!

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