As you are reading this Tuesday morning, our staff and volunteers are moving animals and supplies from our Wire Road shelter to our new facility on Willow Run Road. Our doors at 401 Wire Road closed for adoptions permanently last Saturday after 31 years at that location.

Over those three-plus decades, more than 20,000 dogs, cats, horses, pigs, goats, rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, hamsters, hedgehogs, emus, birds, lizards and about any other animal that can be a pet were adopted. Most people were Aiken County citizens, but we’ve had people come from as far away as south Florida, Pennsylvania and New York to adopt an animal they first saw over the Internet.

Since it opened, around 50,000 dogs and cats were spayed or neutered in our modest little one table clinic. There’s no precise way to know just how many unplanned litters of puppies and kittens were prevented in all these surgeries, but the number would be staggering for sure.

I’ve worked in that building for nearly five of the 31 years it has been there and have witnessed the hard work and dedication of dozens of employees and hundreds of volunteers over my time here. Likely, there have been several hundred people who worked in this shelter and thousands more who volunteered their time walking dogs, socializing cats, answering phones – whatever was needed.

Many people worked hard to build this shelter, moving from the original modest SPCA shelter on Banks Mill Road that had been there since the 1930s. Those people would have been proud of the work that occurred there and the new work that will be done at the old shelter, which I’ll share with you more in a future article.

On Thursday, Sept. 13, we will open the doors of our new facility at 199 Willow Run Road for adoptions. By then, nearly 200 dogs and cats will have made the two-mile trip to their new adoption areas, one step closer to a permanent home. Computers, files and lots of items accumulated over the past 31 years will move over, too.

Cats will no longer be in single metal cages in our adoption area, now they’ll spend their days in large rooms with quality time in outdoor screened porches soaking in fresh air and sunshine. Dogs no longer will be in metal cages, staring at other dogs, getting agitated at the noise and proximity to other dogs. Fresh air, windows, natural light, sound-deafening ceilings and bigger spaces will lead to less stressed-out dogs, hopefully helping to get them adopted faster than ever before.

Our Marr Education and Training Center is another wonderful area that will get a lot of usage. Here we will conduct training for our shelter dogs, helping to prepare them to be good citizens so that they are adopted more quickly and fit easily into their new homes. The room will also host a variety of educational programs for school children of all ages, pet therapy training and adult education.

Later on this fall, our new regional spay and neuter clinic will open in the new facility. We will have the ability to provide 18,000-plus surgeries per year, numbers so big that local shelters will see large reductions in their unplanned strays coming in each year. We’ll accomplish this in part, with partnerships with local animal welfare organizations 60 or more miles in each direction away from the clinic and through an active transport program.

If you haven’t had a chance to see the new center yet, feel free to come out Thursday anytime from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. to see the latest in animal sheltering design. We’ll also have a big celebration Sept. 30 from 1 to 5 p.m. when you can tour every single part of the new facility.

For more information, call 648-6863.