Worker shortages are affecting many businesses in Person and Caswell County. Animal Protection Society (APS) of Caswell County is no stranger to this as they continue to struggle to find full-time and part-time employees to help care for the animals and maintain the facilities. Piedmont Community College (PCC) developed a remedy that will connect the shelter with students that are passionate about working with animals.

PCC’s new Veterinary Assistant course, which starts September 6, provides hands-on training to students to increase their knowledge and raise their comfort of professionally working with animals , including working in a veterinary office or animal shelter.

PCC’s program coordinators originally created this course due to the high interest level among high school students in the Bartlett Yancey Senior High School (BYSHS) veterinary assisting program, although the Veterinary Assistant program at PCC extends the reach of specialized veterinary training beyond the BYSHS agriculture program to any individual in the community that is 16 years old or older. After learning about the difficulty that local animal-focused businesses and organizations have to recruit employees, those coordinators realized how much more this course will benefit the community.

“Our biggest needs right now are finding help,” said Susan Pendergraph, Director of the APS of Caswell County. “It’s been tough trying to find dedicated full-time and part-time staff members who want to provide our animals comfort and cleanliness as they wait for their chance to find a family and have a better life.”

Every Wednesday throughout the Veterinary Assistant course, two to three students will join Melanie Gibson, Veterinary Assistant instructor, at the APS shelter in Caswell County for the opportunity to work with animals and observe normal and abnormal behavior.

“A benefit for our students working with the Animal Protection Society is that they can see firsthand the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy animal,” Gibson said. “They can listen to how heartbeats differ, they can see the difference in coat sheen or gum color, and begin to tap into other medical things as well”

Besides helping with daily tasks, students will also observe animal weighing, heartworm checks, vaccination injections, applying flea and tick preventative, implementing treatment plans, as well as other animal related medical tasks.

“With our partnership with the APS, I ultimately want the class to be a help for them,” Gibson said. “We don’t want them to feel like they need to cater to us. Any exposure the students get with the animals, whether it’s related to that specific week’s topic or not, is beneficial. We want our students to serve and learn from the shelter for those two hours and help complete any tasks that are needed.”

Gibson continued, “Community building is a key aspect of this new program. I look forward to creating connections between potential employees and employers in the veterinary field.”

Collaboration between Piedmont Community College, Animal Protection Society of Caswell County, and nearby veterinarians helps to ensure that local veterinary offices and animal facilities are equipped with knowledgeable, caring and highly skilled staff.  

Veterinary Assistant I is the first in a series of courses, where students may earn their industry certification after completing 300 hands-on hours with a veterinarian. During this first course, students will be trained in two highly valuable technical skills for a veterinary assistant: accurately measuring patient vital signs and properly restraining animals. The course will also provide students with the knowledge and hands-on skills to confidently face two difficult veterinary scenarios: veterinary emergencies and animal euthanasia.

“There is also now a scholarship for residents of Caswell County and Person County who register for the course,” Gibson said. “The course is normally $188, but now, when a qualified student who is within PCC’s service area registers, $100 will be deducted through PCC’s Pacer Promise Scholarship.”

Details on the course and a link to register are online at

Photo: Melanie Gibson, Zola (up for adoption), Lois Dixon, and Jennifer Zattiero (left to right).

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