Taking a moment to look back on each year of work that was done by the SPCA since we first started here in Aiken in 1935 is useful and important. It helps us to measure the impact we have had in helping animals and how we met the goals we set for ourselves. It helps us to look forward to bigger and better things to strive for in the new year.

The year started off with a name change. For 77 years, we were officially known as the Aiken County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. That official name was a mouthful, as is our new name, the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare, but our focus has remained the same – help find homeless animals new homes, spay and neuter as many pets as possible, and provide education about pets to all who want it.

In March, we proudly opened our latest Treasure Chest resale store, our first one outside of Aiken County.

Our newest store is located in historic downtown Edgefield on Main Street. Besides raising funds to help us help homeless animals in Edgefield County and provide low cost spay and neuter services to their residents, it also serves as an adoption center for cats and helps bring more people to downtown Edgefield to shop; just like our stores in downtown North Augusta and Aiken do.

Throughout the first half of 2012, we were hard at work constructing our new facility that we couldn’t be prouder of. Since I joined the SPCA in 2007, I’ve toured facilities throughout South and North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Virginia, Ohio and Michigan and I personally have never stepped foot in one better designed for the comfort and care of dogs and cats.

The facility is nicer for the pets, but also for our volunteers and staff who care for them. Last year, 226 new volunteers joined us to help in a variety of ways such as pet therapy, humane education, treasure chest workers, dog walkers, cat socializers, special event helpers and much more. There is no way we could function without the help of all of these great folks who donated their time and talents to help us carry out our mission each and every day.

We also saw a great year for adoptions, with nearly 750 dogs, cats, hamsters, rabbits, birds, horses, goats, pigs and other animals finding their forever homes from the SPCA.

Many more who came in found their way back to their original homes through microchipping and our lost and found program.

We made the move to 199 Willow Run Road in mid-September and had our official grand opening at the end of the same month. Hundreds of people donated to the effort to make this dream become a reality and even more people have toured it since we opened. Adoptions in the new shelter are way up and we hope that trend continues in 2013. It allowed us to transfer in 27 dogs from Aiken County Shelter in December alone and throughout the year we transferred from partners like Aiken County and Allendale County whenever we had available space; at no charge to those counties.

We were blessed to receive some impressive grants in 2012 too. Nearly $20,000 came to us from Pedigree Foundation to fund our Phideaux University program, which aims to better prepare dogs for adoption through socialization and training.

It is particularly effective with some larger dogs that otherwise may have spent many months waiting for their names to be called. PetSmart charities awarded us over $93,000 in 2012 to supply our new regional spay and neuter clinic, allowing us to potentially perform over 18,000 surgeries annually, more than five times more than our old clinic could handle.

Looking back at 2012, our 77th year serving the CSRA, we couldn’t be happier for the generosity and support we received from the public, helping us to build our new facility and to provide more low cost spay and neuter surgeries for all pet owners. We are looking forward to even more great things in 2013. To learn more, please call us at 648-6863.

Gary Willoughby is the president and CEO of the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare