Charleston Animal Society

Charleston Animal Society leads statewide lifesaving effort

Charleston Animal Society

During the summer of 2012, Charleston Animal Society (CAS) was overflowing with dogs and cats. Rather than euthanize so many animals, CAS did something unprecedented. They placed an ad in the newspaper and printed a four-letter word in large letters: H-E-L-P. The message that followed simply asked people if they could make room for just one more pet in their homes.

CAS was stunned by the community’s response. The ad, which ran on a Wednesday, resulted in 200 adoptions that day. By the end of the week, every pet had been adopted out of the shelter. But people kept coming to the shelter to help, so CAS transported a few animals from other area shelters in order to ride out the impact of the ad.

"We were euphoric. We still get emotional about that event to this day. We trusted in our community and they had our backs."

“You can’t imagine how it feels to see an empty shelter,” says Joe Elmore, CEO of Charleston Animal Society. “We were euphoric. We still get emotional about that event to this day. We trusted in our community and they had our backs.”

That adoption event was a turning point for CAS who pledged to change animal welfare in their city and for the entire state of South Carolina, forever.

Making the impossible look possible

In 2013, CAS launched No Kill Charleston – a three-year program designed to save every healthy and treatable pet in the community. Armed with a 10-point plan, they achieved a 90% lifesaving rate the first year.

“We were ecstatic,” says Elmore. “We had built one of the first No Kill Communities in the Southeast, something many people thought impossible in the south.”

CAS decided to pay it forward. They wanted to share their successful strategies with the more than 350 animal shelters in South Carolina. So in February 2015, Elmore stood before 400 supporters at CAS’s annual meeting and made the case for launching and leading the initiative No Kill South Carolina.

“I believe we have a disproportionate responsibility to help animals in the state,” says Elmore. “How can we turn our heads when tens of thousands of animals are dying in South Carolina every day? If we can do it here, then we can show other groups how to do it too.”

Charleston residents rally behind CAS

Initially, CAS had no funding to launch No Kill South Carolina, but CAS supporters and Charleston residents stepped up by donating, volunteering and fostering more animals than ever before.

CAS began laying the groundwork for the statewide initiative. They identified six animal shelters in the state who could become resource centers for the smaller agencies. “We wanted every animal shelter to be within 45 minutes of help,” says Elmore.

They also reached out to the Petco Foundation who invested $250,000 to help launch outreach and training across the state. Opportunities to help sprung up almost immediately.