Last weekend, years of planning and hard work by lots of people paid off with the grand opening of the new SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare. The building is beautiful, for sure, but the most important thing is the work that will go on inside.

Our first event was on Saturday, with most of our major donors stopping by to see how their contributions helped make this all possible. Several of us gave short presentations, thanking everyone in attendance for their part, before we had our ribbon cutting and gave tours to the 100-plus people in attendance.

Sunday’s afternoon event was much more casual, but equally important. Our staff and volunteers worked so hard to have the facility looking great, the animals happy and to greet and guide hundreds and hundreds of visitors to our grand opening open house event.

An afternoon of rainy weather didn’t dampen the spirits of those visiting whether they were young children or the young at heart. For the first time in my memory, we actually had more people in the building than dogs and cats.

The day reinforced the fact that the Aiken community is an animal loving community as many folks came out to see the place and the animals waiting for new homes. We had many dogs and puppies find new homes on Sunday, from tiny puppies to our giant black lab Goliath.

We were also very pleased to find new homes for the first two of our “puppy mill” dogs that were altered late last week and now are getting spoiled the way they deserve. Shaggy and Velma are two terrier mixes that had spent their entire lives in cages in a dirty backyard and now will be a part of two nice families. This week, we hope that many more from this case will find their forever homes too.

The feedback I got from the visitors to the facility was that it is a happy place, not depressing like animal shelters can be. Even though you are visiting homeless animals, which is a sad thing, visitors could tell that the animals were well taken care of in the rooms we designed for them. Cats and kittens were in seventh heaven climbing up their stairs to elevated perches where they could pounce down on their roommates and delight at entertaining all of the people looking on at the fun.

People saw firsthand that animals in shelters aren’t damaged or “broken.” They simply picked the wrong owners the first time and, with our help, will do a better job in picking just the right family to share the rest of their lives with.

We were also excited to see many of our animal welfare partners stop by and see the wonderful environments our dogs and cats are housed in. They were also pleased with the tour of our regional spay and neuter clinic where we will alter thousands of their shelter dogs and cats over the coming decades.

The amount of children in attendance also stood out for us.

Our board of directors designed the facility to be a fun and educational place for children. Sunday meant bouncy houses and games for children, and the enjoyment of watching the fish swim in our 470 gallon aquarium, but it was much more. Discussion were had about how animals end up in shelters, what a spay or neuter is, how to meet an animal for the first time and much more. Hopefully many of these children will someday join our Junior SPCA and more importantly, become lifelong, responsible pet owners and community leaders.

I personally want to thank all of you who came out to tour, to those who helped us build the facility, and to all of you who work or volunteer with our animals. If you couldn’t make it out, we will welcome you any Monday-Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, please call us at 648-6863.