MOREHEAD CITY —Students at four county schools are sawing, drilling and painting their way into a unique competition that will help build a community pet adoption center and no kill shelter.

It’s all part of the 14th annual PAWS Pet House Challenge taking place Saturday and Sunday, March 7-8 in conjunction with the Coastal Home & Garden Show at the Crystal Coast Civic Center.

This year’s challengers in the competition, sponsored by the Pet Adoption and Welfare Society of Carteret and The Neal Foundation, include carpentry students from West Carteret, Croatan and East Carteret high schools and Down East Middle School. Schools can enter as many houses as they like.

For the first time in the competition’s history, the team from WCHS is entering a large cat playhouse instead of the traditional doghouse.

“This will be a multi-level platform with two houses and a ramp,” WCHS carpentry instructor Michael Litaker said. “There will be toys and other things for cats to play on.”

The teams are competing for prizes by building the pet houses, which will be judged by a construction contractor. The public will also be able to vote on their favorite houses for $1 a vote. In addition, pet houses will be available for purchase through a silent auction.

Plus, there will be a Lottery Tree, where people can purchase lottery tickets for $5 each.

Proceeds will go to PAWS to help equip a $1.5 million no-kill animal shelter that will house 60 animals at the PAWS Adoption Center at 5042 Mattie St. Money will also help fund ongoing pet rescue and adoption programs.

The 9,750-square-foot shelter was nearing completion when Hurricane Florence hit in September 2018, causing an estimated $178,000 in damage.

PAWS Vice President Donna Youraine said Friday she is still in process of settling with the insurance company for repairs. In the meantime, she continues to apply for grants and raise funds to equip the shelter and adoption center.

It will be outfitted with an income-producing hydrotherapy unit, used to rehabilitate animals with joint injuries. A small surgical unit is also included and will service all animals in residence.

Ms. Youraine said she appreciates the support of the schools with the competition and always looks forward to seeing the creative houses students design.

“It’s in keeping with PAWS’ mission to educate the next generation on the importance of responsible pet ownership,” Ms. Youraine said.

Competition prizes are donated by area businesses and will be awarded to first-place finishers in the following three categories: People’s Choice, where people place dollars in a container; Buyer’s Choice, the house bringing the most money in the silent auction; and Builder’s Choice, where a contractor judges based on design, creativity, workmanship and materials.

Students and instructors take the competition seriously, and with creativity one of the criteria for prizes, which include tools donated by area businesses, participants put on their thinking caps to come up with some unique designs, such as the cat playhouse.

WCHS students working on the playhouse Thursday admitted they are more dog people, but like the idea of helping homeless animals.

“I think it’s really good that we’re helping out these people and the animals,” WCHS senior Joe Kutt said.

At CHS, students are entering seven doghouses with various themes, from a beach house to a duck blind.

CHS sophomore Mackenzie Bullock said, “We wanted to go with a beach house on pilings. There will be a ramp for the dog.”

Another first this year is having DEMS students involved in the competition. DEMS carpentry instructor Gray Kittrell explained that last semester he taught carpentry at ECHS, where work started on two doghouses for the competition. Then, Mr. Kittrell was transferred to the middle school for the second semester.

“I brought the doghouses with me and thought the middle school students could finish them up,” Mr. Kittrell said Thursday.

DEMS seventh-grader Madison Garner said she was excited about being in the competition.

“It’s cool that we get to be the guinea pigs in introducing middle school students to the competition,” she said. “I like it because we can help. I wouldn’t want my animals to be killed.”

Instructors said the competition always provides a great opportunity for students to use the skills they’re being taught.


Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.

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