By: Claire Roberson, Communications Director

A little over a year ago in March 2020, the threat of the global pandemic began to loom closer and closer to the areas we serve at the SPCA Albrecht Center. There was no telling what the impact would be on our operations, but we knew our vital staff, volunteers and supporters needed protection from COVID-19 to ensure the animals in our care would continue to receive lifesaving care and a safe haven from the unkind world they were seeking shelter from.

SPCA senior staffers met to discuss safety measures for the upcoming months (which quickly turned into the upcoming year). Mask requirements, temperature readings and increased sanitization efforts, in addition to the already-daily deep cleanings of the animals’ rooms, were put into place.

A call to action went out to our supporters for donations to assist with the inevitable decrease in funds from the pandemic, and for fosters and adopters in anticipation of possible space issues. Owner surrenders capable of keeping their pets for a while longer were asked to be put on a waiting list or to pursue alternative methods of rehoming. We increased our TNR (trap-neuter-return) efforts and offered fee-waived adoptions for several months – all to help with keeping the number of animals in our care at a manageable level.

Events that could not adapt to social distancing and masks requirements were cancelled for the year, traffic into the shelter was restricted to staff, and a limited number of volunteers and serious adopters were allowed in the building.

Just as the Shelter remained open as an essential business, so did the Veterinary Care Center. A tent was purchased for an outdoor waiting area, a pager system was implemented, and staff was educated on effective communication with clients to ensure a smooth transition to the new normal.

The SPCA’s Thrift Store was not as lucky, as retail stores were classified as nonessential. During the course of the pandemic, the Store’s closure resulted in a $70,000 net loss for the animals, in addition to nearly $10,000 in lost special event revenues, and a slight decrease in donations (understandably due to the devastating job losses during the pandemic).

Despite the uncertainty and losses this time brought, kindness and compassion for the area’s homeless & neglected animals persevered with the community’s support. Over 95% of the animals we took in found their loving, forever homes thanks to citizens staying home more and having time to adjust with their new companion. We did see a slight uptick in the number of owner surrenders and return adoptions over the course of the past year. Oddly, many of the returns were adopted pets from years prior and not many of the recently adopted companions.

Volunteers selflessly showed up and committed nearly 10,000 of lifesaving service to the shelter animals, and over 275 animals were fostered (compared to only 53 in 2019). This helped tremendously to help free up staff to focus more on the increased sanitation efforts, to adapt tothe new normal and continue to limit contact with the public to ensure they stayed safe and healthy for their sake and the sake of the animals they care for daily.

The Veterinary Care Center’s traffic skyrocketed – again, thanks to pet owners having more time dedicated to their companions. In the course of the year, 15,907 vaccinations, 3,002 spay/neuter surgeries, 2,433 heartworm tests and 1,615 microchips were administered to both personal and shelter pets. And, upon reopening, avid Thrift Store shoppers excitedly returned to shop ‘Where Shopping Saves Lives.”

Though we are not yet back to pre-pandemic operations, there is light at the end of the tunnel as we enter into the New Year thanks to the compassionate, never-failing support of our staff, adopters, volunteers, Board members, donors, and all of those that pillar our organization in a myriad of ways.

Thank you to all that continued to contribute during such an uncertain time. Your support never ceases to amaze us and makes the world of difference to the most vulnerable souls in our care at the SPCA Albrecht Center. We look forward to working our ‘tails’ off in 2021 next to all of you as we (hopefully) slowly return to normal and continue our mission for a brighter future for homeless & neglected animals. Thank you!

An Aiken native and self-proclaimed cat lady, Claire Roberson is the SPCA Albrecht Center’s Communications Director, working in marketing, grant writing and media correspondence. She attended College of Charleston, where she graduated with a degree in Nonprofit Business and interned with Charleston Animal Society, the leader in No-Kill South Carolina. When not working, you can find Claire hanging out with her 18-pound Maine Coon mix, Anakin.

The SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare is a private, nonprofit, no kill animal shelter in Aiken, SC.  The SPCA also operates a local Thrift Store (“Where Shopping Saves Lives”),  a public, affordable Veterinary Care Center & a Dog Park.  It is our mission to improve the lives of companion animals by rehoming abused, abandoned, and neglected pets while fighting for their well-being through vigorous legislative efforts, humane education, and by offering affordable veterinary care for all.