FOTAS community: making a difference for homeless animals

21 December 2014

FOTAS Community: making a difference for homeless animals

By Joanna D. Samson, FOTAS Director

What makes the Aiken County Animal Shelter a true community shelter?

It’s not just because it’s owned and operated by a public body and funded through taxpayer dollars. It’s not just because it’s obligated by law to serve all of Aiken County, which is 50 times larger than the City of Aiken (1071 square miles versus 21) and serves a population almost 5 times larger than the City’s.  It’s also not just because the County shelter is legally obligated to accept and care for all County strays, all County and City owner-surrenders – a whopping average intake of 400 dogs and cats per month.

Those are the legal technicalities that define the basic nature of the County shelter, but to me, it is a community shelter because the Aiken community itself has claimed the County shelter as its own. It is the heart that makes the shelter tick, the force that breathes life into the daunting task of caring for thousands of homeless and abandoned animals every year.

That’s why the Friends of the Aiken County Animal Shelter (FOTAS) was created in 2009 – to marshal the private resources of the Aiken community to supplement and support the County shelter’s limited budgetary and operational needs.

FOTAS formed an army of committed community volunteers, who perform the jobs equivalent of 9-10 paid staff positions. Volunteers organize, coordinate and implement transfers to no-kill sister agencies in other parts of the country, on-site events such as Woofstock, the Dog Ears Reading Program, puppy socials and off-site adoption events. They recruit and support local citizens to privately foster animals in their homes.FOTAS volunteers developed and manage a website and social media to keep the community informed. They create and run fundraising community events like Play Fore the Dogs, Broadway Sings for the Pets, and the FOTAS Hunter Pace. They coordinate spay/neuter services through FOTAS Fix-a-Pet and Lenny’s Brigade. They love-up the cats and walk the dogs at the shelter 6 days a week and on holidays. They work with and train difficult-to-place dogs. They write thank-you notes, make phone calls, keep the books and greet visitors at the shelter.Because FOTAS is an all-volunteer organization funded solely by private donations, virtually every dollar contributed to FOTAS is used to improve the lives of and outcomes for the County’s homeless animals.

In addition to funding improvements to the shelter itself (play yards with appropriate drainage and irrigation, a separate feline facility with a hot water heater, stainless steel kennels with guillotine doors, surgical equipment, etc.), FOTAS dollars also fund essential needs (heartworm medicine, flea and tick treatments, toys, leashes, collars, supplies for foster families, vet clinics for pets and citizens in need, an off-site adoption van and the like) and the programmatic costs of transfer and spay/neuter.

Here’s the good news: all this effort and support is making a difference.

In the last 23 months, FOTAS organized and funded the spay/neuter surgeries of 859 dogs and cats and transferred 1339 dogs to sister agencies. As of the end of November, there has been a 14% reduction in shelter intake and a 43% increase in adoptions and transfers over 2013. The average monthly euthanasia rate has dropped from 90+% in pre-FOTAS years to 55%. That’s huge.

This Christmas, make your holiday gifts count: donate to FOTAS to save a life in honor of your family and friends. A $45 gift will fix a pet cat and $80 a dog. A $75 gift will treat a heartworm positive dog. A $90 gift will help FOTAS fund the transfer of an animal to a no-kill facility and a forever home.

Seriously, does Dad really need a new tie? Call us at 803-514-4313 or email us at to discuss the possibilities.

And don’t forget to take advantage of our special Holiday adoption rates until January 3rd ($35 for dogs and $10 for cats).

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and God Bless you and your family.


January 2013 through November 2014:

1339 dogs/cats— FOTAS worked with the Shelter and transferred these animals to partner rescues/shelters ( this is in ADDITION to local adoptions from the County Shelter )

876 pets & community cats were spayed/neutered, organized and paid for by FOTAS ( this is in ADDITION to those animals spayed/neutered through the County’s voucher program )