The work done at the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare has a dual purpose.

“You're not only helping animals, but you're also helping people at the same time,” said Barbara Nelson, who is the Albrecht Center's president and CEO.

The story of Houston illustrates how that happens. Houston was a canine senior citizen whose owners, a tearful elderly couple, surrendered him to the Albrecht Center because they could no longer care for him.

“Old dogs are difficult for us to adopt out, and he wasn't just old, he was big,” Nelson said. “But we told them, 'We'll find your dog a good home.'”

It didn't happen quickly, but finally the Albrecht Center fulfilled that promise.

“A couple in their 60s came in that had lost their old dog to death,” Nelson said. “They were thinking that they wanted to get a younger dog. But after they took one look at Houston and I told them about him, they adopted him. Afterward, I called the couple that had brought Houston in. They were so grateful to hear that their dog had a new home, so we helped make their lives better, too.”

Last year, the Albrecht Center handled the adoptions of more than 800 dogs, cats and other creatures. Around 3,700 surgeries were performed at its spay and neuter clinic in 2013.

“We're hoping we're going to do 5,000 surgeries this year,” Nelson said. “One of our missions is to make spaying and neutering more affordable and accessible, so we subsidize all of our surgeries.”

The Albrecht Center is located on Willow Run Road. The facilities on its 13-acre property include a 22,000-square-foot building and a dog park with a swimming pool that local residents must pay membership fees to use.

Funding for the Albrecht Center, which has an annual budget of approximately $1.1 million, comes from a variety of sources. They include proceeds from sales at its four thrift stores, charges for vaccinations and donations.

“We have about 27 paid employees and more than 300 volunteers,” Nelson said.

The Albrecht Center is not an animal control agency, but the Aiken Department of Public Safety's Animal Control Division uses the SPCA's facilities.

“They are housed within us,” Nelson said. “The City of Aiken did contribute to the about $6-million project that built this whole thing, so they actually own a portion of this facility where the animals are kept. That is one pool we draw from when we put animals on our adoption floor. We also get animals from North Augusta, Aiken County and many different other sources.”

For more information about the Albrecht Center, call 803-648-6863 or visit

Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.