December 11, 2012

ImageAs the time for giving is upon us and the year-end approaches, it is time to recognize those organizations that have made a difference in our community in 2012. As an advocate for animals, I could not resist this opportunity to write about the Lowcountry’s 2012 Nonprofit of the Year, the Charleston Animal Society (CAS). This group of dedicated individuals has made a difference beyond your wildest imagination.

To help you understand the impact this organization has on our county, you must understand the numbers. Every month nearly 1,000 animals are taken to the CAS for care, treatment and housing. Can you imagine if these animals were left on their own to roam the streets? This would be a public- health nightmare, not to mention that these animals would suffer needlessly. The CAS takes in more animals than all our other awesome area shelters combined. And they have never, since their inception in the late 1800s, turned an animal away.

Their mission is simply “to prevent cruelty to animals.”, but when asked what the Charleston Animal Society does, one employee said “we find homeless animals a home.” And they take this task seriously. When a hoarder has been discovered or a natural disaster results in overcrowding at the shelter, the CAS holds fee- waived adoption events. Grants and your donations make these free adoptions possible .In June of this year, during one of these free adoption events, CAS emptied their adoption floor. Every single adoption cage was empty for the first time in 138 years.

Not only did this event make local news and bring elation to our community, it brought in calls from shelters all over the country. From New York to Los Angeles, shelters wanted to know how they could do the same thing. “We asked our community to open up their hearts and their homes to make room for just one more pet, and they did,” the CAS chief executive director Joe Elmore said. That is the kind of community that Charleston is.

When employee Christina Ellwood was asked what she did at the shelter, she said “I reunite loved ones with their families.” She tells emotional stories about these reunions, including one involving a 23 year old cat. The videos she has of pets being reunited with their pets will tear your heart out.

The CAS also runs a food bank so that people who need the help can continue to feed their pets. In today’s economy, the last thing families need to worry about is where they are going to get enough food for their pets. By providing food to needy families every Saturday, CAS keeps pets in their homes.

When asked what CAS does, Pearl Sutton, senior director of animal services said “We save lives.” Toby’s Fund is one way that CAS is doing this. Toby was a dog who came to the shelter with 2nd and 3rd degree burns on his back. He was aggressively treated and eventually placed in a loving home. The fund in his name allows people to donate the medical equipment and treatment needed to treat every sick or damaged animal that comes into the shelter. No longer are animals euthanized just because they are sick or injured. From simple heartworm treatments to major surgeries, Toby’s Fund is helping CAS make animals whole again.

 To reduce animal cruelty in the future, CAS goes into schools to teach students to be humanitarians. They have reached over 15,000 students so far. Not only are these kids learning how to care for animals in a responsible way, but their interest in science and learning increases after the visits by the CAS education team.

As Joe Elmore says “CAS is solving the problem. We are decreasing pet over-population by spaying or neutering over 12,000 animals per year. We are changing the face of sheltering thanks to the Charleston community.” So, if you are wondering what non-profit to give to this year, consider helping the CAS heal damaged animals, find every single one of them a home or even just help keep a pet in his home. Why? Because that is the kind of community that Charleston is.

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