Surrounded by dogs of all shapes and sizes, local animal welfare groups gathered Tuesday at the Charleston Animal Society shelter in North Charleston to accept a $600,000 pledge to help save more abandoned and unwanted pets.
The money, presented by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, will be used to help increase area shelter adoption rates by 10 percent within a year and reach a 75 percent save rate by 2011.
"This is not smoke and mirrors" said ASPCA President Ed Sayers. "These are real numbers the community can be accountable to." Charleston County is the eighth community in the nation to partner with the ASPCA on its "Mission: Orange" campaign.
The $600,000 can be used in a number of ways, including increasing adoption efforts, offering incentives for spaying and neutering and educating the public about the 10,668 homeless pets that local shelters took in last year alone.
As part of the campaign, the ASPCA has sent a team of six employees to Charleston County to help determine which areas need the most work.
"The concept is like training wheels. The idea is that you give the community the tools (it needs)," Sayers said, after the presentation.
"It's unconscionable to have the thousands of animals killed every year," Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said. "We will be a model for the rest of the country."
North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey spoke from a personal standpoint.
"I came here last time and left with a dog," he said. "All of us working together will make this community even better." A small, black dog sat on his lap, which Summey later took with him for possible adoption.
Mount Pleasant Mayor Harry Hallman and County Councilwoman Colleen Condon also spoke at the event. Carol Linville, founder of Pet Helpers, a no-kill animal shelter in James Island, said she wants to exceed the goals set out in the campaign.
Sayers said the color orange in the campaign symbolizes how the participating agencies are "looking out" for the animals, like how people look out for an orange cone or orange flag.
"We are their voice," he said. "We are their lookouts."
The "Mission: Orange" campaign aims to increase the shelter adoption rate by 10 percent within a year and move toward a 75 percent "save rate" by 2011. Ways the money can be used to reach these goals include:
-- Increasing adoption efforts.
-- Helping with the cost of spaying and neutering.
-- Transporting animals to other communities that have a larger demand for adoption.
-- Enhancing identification methods by making microchips available.
-- Increasing adoption marketing campaigns.
-- Encouraging regional animal shelters to spay and neuter animals prior to adoption.