By Karen Wilkinson
Triplicate staff writer
With colorful posters illustrating rapidly reproducing cats and stuffed animals strewn across kids' arms, Interact Club students urged children to share the importance of "fixing" their furry friends with their parents.
"We have a huge pet overpopulation problem in Del Norte County," said Danielle Larsen, a volunteer with the Humane Society of Del Norte. "(And) there's just a huge problem with people not spaying and neutering their pets."
Del Norte High School students Deja Hartwick, 16, Joseph Alexandre, 16, and Christian Alexandre, 15, gave presentations at Joe Hamilton Elementary School Tuesday that informed students of the dangers that can result if animals remain fertile.
"A cat can produce lots of babies by just two cats," said KieAnna Ferguson, 9, as she beaded an animal necklace after the presentation.
"You can't handle more than one or two cats (in one home)," said Aubri Ralphs, 9.
The high school students took this service learning project on to meet requirements of the Cal Focus 4-H state leadership conference ¬ó an educational citizenship experience that combines hands-on workshops, debates and simulations with speakers and visits to historical, cultural and governmental sites at the state capital.
They are also collecting data to see how many pets are fixed and how many aren't in the community, which Larsen said will help the Humane Society seize grants and hopefully expand its facility, a "no-kill" shelter that can only house 150 cats at a time.
Del Norte Interact and leadership advisor Alison Eckart the project may be expanded to other Del Norte County schools in the future, as "we need people to be concerned about the pet population here."
And the problem isn't just strays wandering the streets and multiplying, it's the unforeseen repercussions may that follow, as Ferguson has experienced.
"Our neighbor had a cat (that) had tons of babies," the fourth-grader said. "They were left as strays (and) someone came around and took them, but also took one of my mom's cats."
The Humane Society is providing 12 free spays and neuters to Joe Hamilton parents in hopes of decreasing the overall un-wanted pet population.
Larsen said high school students speaking with the younger kids is a great way to reach a large population in a short time.
"The kids are a good way to get to the adults, because the kids listen," she said.