The SPCA Albrecht Center IS a “no kill” animal adoption center, a spay and neuter clinic, an education and training center and a membership dog park. It is NOT an animal control or law enforcement agency.

However, City of Aiken Animal Control is housed within the SPCA building complex, and therein, for some people, lies the confusion.

The City of Aiken's Animal Control Officers have an office, shared use of the medical areas, storage for vehicles and equipment and housing for strays brought in by its officers or dropped off by the public that are found within city limits.

When an animal is surrendered as a city stray by the public, that animal is placed under the jurisdiction of the city, NOT the SPCA. The SPCA has no “jurisdiction” over anything. It is not law enforcement; it is not an entity of the city, county, state or federal government. It is a nonprofit 501(c)3 whose mission is to save the lives of as many homeless pets as it can.

After an animal has spent the legally required days in holding, which is determined by whether the animal is identifiable, and during which every attempt is made to find the owner, the animal may be turned over to a certified rescue, like the SPCA.

Only then does that animal become the property of the rescuing organization or person. If you bring an animal to the SPCA and fill out the paperwork identifying it as a stray found within city limits then it becomes the temporary property of the city, not the SPCA.

About 50 percent of the animals that the SPCA eventually does take possession of for adoption are from the City of Aiken. The remaining percentage are from personal surrenders and shelters in surrounding areas. Our “no kill” policy includes an exception for extreme temperament or medical conditions that may subsequently develop. It is very rare that we authorize an exception.

While the city strays are housed within our building, we watch and care for them until they can be legally surrendered. During that time we evaluate for temperament and health. The unclaimed, vast majority of them are turned over to the SPCA for adoption.

We subsequently treat for heartworm and other conditions, including amputation, joint surgery, broken bones, bad teeth and a whole host of other ailments that no adoption fee will ever cover.

For temperament issues, we turn to our expert in dog behavior, who works with our shelter manager to watch and evaluate reasons for exhibited behavior to determine if a scared, nervous dog will eventually come around and improve under our training and enrichment program so it can be adopted into a good home in a reasonable amount of time. Most can and do settle in and learn that life can be good after all.

We have some dogs that are adopted and returned two or three times before we find a successful permanent home. We employ every strategy we can think of to teach good manners and self-calming techniques and then match its personality with a suitable new owner.

Caution – do not lie to the SPCA or to law enforcement about where you find what you believe to be a stray. Picking up an animal in North Augusta, driving to the SPCA and telling us that you found it on a city street in Aiken just because you know that the SPCA is a no-kill shelter does not insure that it can and will be saved.

Even though you turned it in at the SPCA, we do not own that poor animal; you will be surrendering it to the government, and it may be euthanized by the city for health and temperament if it has a condition that causes suffering or there is a possibility of infection to other shelter animals.

Also, there may be someone looking for that pet in the area you took it from and that owner is probably going to call Animal Control there rather than here. If you see an animal in a neglected situation then call local law enforcement so that person can be prosecuted.

In 2013 the SPCA adopted well over 800 dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs and birds.

On behalf of all those animals I thank you for your support and hopefully I have brought some clarity to the difference in roles between Animal Control and the SPCA.

Barbara Nelson is the president and CEO of the SPCA Albrecht Center.