The crowning achievement of the public/private partnership between Aiken County and FOTAS will certainly be the completion of the new Aiken County Animal Shelter planned for next year.

Three busy years have passed since FOTAS was founded by three women seeking to make a difference in the welfare of thousands of animals received and destroyed each year at the Aiken County Shelter. The organization’s progress has been huge, a direct result of a magical teamwork that evolved among the players: county and shelter staff, Council, FOTAS volunteers, community groups, businesses and local governments.

What began as an initiative to address dire conditions at our grossly inadequate, understaffed, underfunded shelter has become the very essence of what Gandhi meant when he said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

Just substitute “county” for “nation,” and you capture the spirit of the FOTAS/Aiken County team.

Last Wednesday, FOTAS volunteers sat down with the architects from Macmillan, Pazdan and Smith to talk about how to convey critical elements of the project to the public. As the essential needs of this shelter building project take shape, FOTAS and the architects are reaching for broad community support through the Capital Campaign necessary to complete it.

The conversation among those at the table last Wednesday was already well-versed in the barebones, pragmatic obligations of animal control law. The challenge then became adding principles of responsibility and morality to animal welfare in our public shelter, then creating a facility that could act as a hub for helping to promote those values throughout the county.

The architects’ initial drawings reflected their deep understanding of the way shelter staff work, the animal control obligations of county government and the animal advocacy dreams and desires of FOTAS members.

First, it will be a humane, healthy environment for homeless animals. It will be a place where minimal staff can work most effectively and efficiently. The new shelter will provide access and space appropriate for all of the public demands it must accommodate: the animals brought to, developed within and adopted from it.

Adopting lots of animals into responsible, forever homes requires a place that invites public involvement – volunteers to get the pets ready and adopters willing to come to their public shelter to look for a pet. Ultimately, our new shelter will have an open stable-like feel and multi-purpose indoor and outdoor spaces for fun and productive people-pet interactions.

Finally, our new Aiken County Shelter will provide a hub for countywide programs that build commitment to spay/neuter and responsible pet ownership.

FOTAS is working with the county shelter to improve data-gathering, to assist funding opportunities for future shelter-based programs; to prevent unwanted pets and to give back to the larger community.

The new Aiken County Animal Shelter is a beginning, and it will be a healthy, happy place where no adoptable pet has to go to die and the heart of a responsible, animal-loving county.

Join us. There are many ways to help.

Aiken County Animal Shelter: “By the Numbers”

For August 6-12, 2012Received: 66 dogs and 51 cats

Adopted: 10 dogs and 2 catsPut down: 57 dogs and 33 cats

Aiken County Shelter “Pets of the Week” are HALF PRICE!

Cowboy – 1 yr. “Singing Chihuahua!” You sing; he sings. Cute as a bug for only $35!

Diablo – Baby male tabby. Bold gray stripes and white mittens. Too cute for only $35.

*All adoption fees include: Spay/Neuter, heartworm test, all shots, worming, and microchip and are half price thru 9/8/12!