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Dorchester Paws anxious for new Summerville-area pet shelter on Orangeburg Road

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Dorchester Paws anxious for new pet shelter

Dorchester Paws clinic tech Storm Moll takes one of the animal shelter dogs for a walk in April.

The greatest issues that Dorchester Paws currently face are facility and maintenance issues, and consistent overcrowding.

In order to address these issues, the shelter is trying to raise funds to construct a new facility, and hopes to meet its goals through a capital campaign made public in February 2019.

Dorchester County has already contributed $1 million, and the shelter is attempting to raise more funds to reach its goal.

Dorchester Paws’s Interim Executive Director Maddie Moore said at the point when the capital campaign launched, it was more of a “private burden” that had just been finally been made public.

The shelter rebranded from the Frances R. Willis SPCA to Dorchester Paws in 2017, and Moore said shelter officials quickly realized that relocating the shelter was becoming more and more urgent.

As of Sept. 1, Dorchester Paws has been forced to close the shelter three times because of flooding.

“At Dorchester Paws, closing means turning away animals that are in need while the staff operates in ‘emergency mode,’ meaning we’re piling sandbags, shoveling puddles that form in our kennels and hallways within minutes, mass-calling our First Defense Fosters, and working skeleton shifts to ensure that the animals are taken care of through storms,” Moore said.

Hurricanes and major storms often mean the shelter’s entire population of dogs and cats have to be placed into temporary foster homes or transported to other shelters. Moore said the building’s condition and perception creates a ripple effect, as families that visit with hopes of adopting a shelter pet see it as “a depressing shelter” and decide to look elsewhere.

{p class=”p”}“Often, they make these judgments before even entering the door, meaning often our pets never get the chance to meet these potential adopters. The perception from potential adopters is another direct cause of a longer length of stay for some of our animals, often resulting in their mental health declining, them suffering from kennel deterioration and them losing hope in finding their second chance.”

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In addition to the flooding, Moore noted cracks and crumbling kennel walls around the animals they are supposed to shelter. Tens of thousands of dollars have gone toward building repairs instead of animal care.

{p class=”p”}“The land itself is not in a desirable location and is hard to notice,” she said, “therefore we cannot gain more potential adopters. The shelter needs adopters first and foremost to be able to carry out its mission of helping homeless animals in Dorchester County.”

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The shelter continues to see an increase in the number of animals brought in each year. Moore said they expect to total more than 4,000 animals this year; last year they had 3,725 intakes and in 2018 they reached 3,270.

The county is working with MB Kahn and subcontractor, Boomerang Design, directly on designing the project.

The current shelter was built in 1972 and has 80 dog kennels and 103 cat cubbies. Moore said Dorchester Paws wants the new shelter to be able to house just as many animals while having the space to offer programs to the public.

“While the plan isn’t to build on a larger campus, the idea is to offer more strategic housing and ensure the facility has the space to offer more public services,” she said.

Dorchester Paws has hired the Winkler Group for a mid-campaign assessment. Moore said the consulting firm has drafted a detailed case statement, and will assist the shelter in contacting its supporters to help raise more funds.

“The feasibility study will help us determine our timeline and whether or not our goal is attainable,” Moore said. “Can we afford to have more kennels, bigger play yards, and more accommodations, or do we need to scale back our wish list items? They essentially get out into the community to express our needs to the proper audiences.”

In June 2018 when Dorchester County Council passed its 2018-2019 fiscal year budget, council members unanimously approved a $1 million contribution to Dorchester paws.

“To us, their (council members’) investment is a reflection of the good spirit and faith that Dorchester County has in our community shelter; our relationship is based on an equal investment in the welfare of the animals in our community,” Moore said.

The county is paying the contractor and their consultants directly as opposed to providing the contribution directly to Dorchester Paws.

In addition to the $1 million, the county also purchased the land for the new campus located on Mallard Road for $525,000.

In November 2019, the county received four statements of qualifications in response to a solicitation for design-build services for the new Dorchester Paws campus, county spokesperson Tiffany Norton said. In March 2020, the county entered an agreement with M.B. Kahn for design-build services. Phase 1 costs $200,600 and includes preliminary planning and delivering design and construction documents. So far the county has paid $90,050 to M.B. Kahn.

The county owns the land and will own the new facility. Dorchester County will contract with Dorchester Paws through a facilities-use agreement. The non-profit organization will continue to manage the organization, however will not own the property and therefore will be free from costs associated with property ownership.

The County will also continue to pay Dorchester Paws its monthly payment for providing animal shelter services for the County. Dorchester Paws is responsible for raising the remaining funds. The shelter needs to raise approximately $2 million in addition to the contributions made by the county.

While Dorchester Paws is a private 501©(3) animal shelter, the shelter holds a county contract and provides services for animals that animal control brings in.

Norton said the county would like the new shelter to offer a more “comfortable and friendly environment” that is more conducive to adopting animals.

County officials also hope that with the new facility, adoption rates will greatly increase and the shelter, along with the Animal Control Division, will have greater support in meeting the community’s needs.

The county is “excited about this opportunity and the continued partnership with Dorchester Paws to provide services to our County and its citizens,” Norton said.

Residents can donate to the campaign at https://dorchesterpaws.org/capitalcampaign/, where they can also view the proposed layout, naming opportunities, pledge forms and more. They can also e-mail capitalcampaign@dorchesterpaws.org or mmoore@dorchesterpaws.org.

In the meantime, Dorchester Paws welcomes fostering opportunities from residents, as well as pet food and cat litter.