At our 139th annual meeting on Tuesday, we launched No Kill Charleston 2015 — the boldest animal welfare initiative ever undertaken in the Southeast. The vision is to save every healthy and treatable animal and, most importantly, sustain it. Though some will dismiss this as unfeasible, the reality is Charleston Animal Society has already made great strides towards this dream.

Five years ago, when we opened our new shelter and spay/neuter clinic, we told the community that the expanded facility would allow us to make our neighborhoods safer and healthier for both people and animals.

This move, along with investments from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and PetSmart Charities during that same period of time was crucial to an expansion of our programs and services critical to saving lives — and helped us make good on our promise. Since moving into our current facility on Remount Road in North Charleston, we have served as a model for bringing the population of unwanted animals under control for all animal rescue organizations and shelters in the Southeast and beyond.

Though we care for 90 percent of the community’s unwanted animals, many of which are seriously injured or gravely ill, we have made remarkable strides in five years. By thinking out-of-the-box, using proven best practices from animal organizations across the nation and implementing research-based strategies, Charleston Animal Society has moved from what is known as an annual live release rate of 34 percent in 2007 to over a 75 percent annual live release rate today, which is almost unheard of in the animal welfare world.

Comparatively, other parts of the state realize low live release rates ranging from 10 percent to 30 percent.

Most remarkably, we have been able to turn our live release rates around even without full support of our local governments whose payment for services amount to a mere 25 percent of our operating costs.

Though proud of our accomplishments, we are hardly satisfied, knowing that there is more to be done. This is what inspired Charleston Animal Society to introduce the concept of a no kill community to Charleston County.

First introduced in 1989 as a concept to build a no kill nation, the no kill philosophy targets the community at large rather than focusing inward on organizations. Communities are seeing that it is indeed a collective and collaborative effort having resulted in positive gains in health and safety for both animals and humans.

Though groundbreaking in its scope, much of No Kill Charleston 2015 involves staying the course and sticking with what is working well. To move forward, however, we’ll lead the Charleston area toward strategies and tactics that are difficult, yet proven.

Much of this will be challenging to implement, but well worth the tough and honest conversations we must have as a community to become the first one in the Southeast to achieve this.

No Kill Charleston 2015 will be demanding on all of us, but what worthwhile venture is not? It is about our community, not about a single organization. It’s time for all of us to work together in saving every healthy and treatable animal. It’s time for us to move our community to no kill.

You are Charleston Animal Society. For 139 years, you have always been Charleston Animal Society and will continue to be. We believe in our community, and we believe in you.

Please join our cause at www.CharlestonAnimalSociety.org/NoKill.

JOE ELMORE

Chief Executive Officer

Charleston Animal Society

Remount Road

North Charleston