By all accounts, the Grand Opening Ceremony for the new Aiken County Animal Shelter on Sunday was a great success.


More than 300 people attended the celebration. Six dogs and one cat went home with their new families. Even the weather complied: by 2 p.m. the rain had stopped and the temperature had risen.


It was a wonderful day, and I was honored to be a part of it.


Now that it’s over, the difficult and frustrating work of dealing with the County’s overpopulation of unwanted animals must continue. The stakes are high.


Here are the grim, cold facts: In the last fiscal year, 4,794 abandoned animals passed through the County shelter’s doors. The County and FOTAS were able to save 1,581 of those animals.


Do the math, folks: 67 percent of the animals that came to the shelter had to be euthanized, many of which would have made someone a great pet. And although 67 percent is a significant improvement over the 90 to 95 percent numbers of the past, it is still a dismal number.


“I am worried,” says Annette van der Walt, the County’s Adoption Coordinator, “that people think because we have this brand new facility the overall picture is rosier. It’s not. Yes, it’s a healthier environment; yes, adoptions and transfers have gone up, but the intake numbers are so much higher than the adoption/transfer rates.” She shakes her head. “That’s heartbreaking.”


In the 45 minutes I was at the shelter last Tuesday, a woman surrendered a lively Jack Russell cross because she was, well . . . too lively.


Then, a man surrendered 15 puppies from two separate litters. When Sandy Larsen offered the man an opportunity to participate in the County’s low cost spay/neuter program, he dismissed her with a shrug and left. No doubt, he’ll be back one day in the future with another 15 puppies for which the County and FOTAS will have to find homes.


“It’s been a hard day,” said Brandon Anceume, one of the kind custodians, staring glumly at the intake papers on the desk. “They just keep coming in.”


Is spay/neuter the answer? Yes, it is. But here’s another cold, hard fact: most experts believe it will take 10 years of a rigorous spay/neuter program to see a dramatic drop in the local intake numbers.


We just can’t wait 10 years.


Today, the County and FOTAS are still obligated, both legally and morally, to care and find a home for those 4,800 animals.


What can we do now? You are the answer. Adopt! Adopt! Adopt!


Thinking of getting a kitten for your kids? Adopt from the County shelter.


Thinking of adding a new dog after your beloved canine companion has passed? Adopt from the County shelter.


Thinking of adding another dog or cat to your family? Adopt from the County shelter.


And now that the adoption experience at the new shelter is peaceful and upbeat, there is no reason to go anywhere else. Please take advantage of the half-price adoption special in effect until the end of this month. Cats are $20 and dogs are $35.


Every time you adopt from the County shelter, you save the life of one of those 4,800 unwanted animals, and that, my friends, brings us one animal closer to our goal of never having to euthanize another adoptable animal in Aiken County.


FOTAS volunteers work with the Aiken County Animal Shelter, 333 Wire Road. For more information, email info@fotasaiken.org or visit www.fotasaiken.org.


Aiken County Animal Shelter: By the Numbers


Mar. 18-23, 2014


Adoptions: 15 dogs, 4 cats


Year to Date: 129 pets