Charleston Animal Society Celebrates 150 Years

By Joe Elmore, CAWA, CFRE, President and CEO

As Charleston Animal Society continues through its sesquicentennial year – one can’t help but be struck by the intertwined threads that link the history of Charleston and the history of Charleston Animal Society.

As South Carolina’s first animal organization and one of the oldest in the nation, Charleston Animal Society will celebrate its 150th anniversary year throughout 2024.

The organization was originally formed with a focus on working animals, such as livestock, farm animals, and horses.

Following the lead of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), founded in 1866, a cadre of animal protection “societies” were formed in the country’s principal cities during the late 1800s. The South Carolina Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was formed on March 14, 1874, by an Act of the South Carolina Legislature. In later years, it became the John Ancrum SPCA, then in 2008, it became Charleston Animal Society.

A group of prominent Charlestonians established the organization, led by its first president, Nathaniel Russell Middleton. Before leading Charleston Animal Society, Middleton became the 5th president of the College of Charleston, somehow managing to keep it open during the Civil War. Many people know the Nathaniel Russell House on Meeting Street, which is considered one of the most historic homes in all of Charleston.


After Nathaniel Middleton’s term, Dr. John L. Ancrum became the second President of the Animal Society. His impact would propel the organization forward into

the next century. He was a Charleston physician who graduated from the College


of Charleston’s Medical School. After servingintheCivilWar,Ancrumcameback to practice in Charleston. At his passing
in 1900, Ancrum willed the Animal Society

“the rest and residue” of his estate after the deaths of his other living relatives.

The will wound its way through the courts for 40 years. Then, just as World War II
was beginning, the estate settled and the organization changed its name to the John Ancrum Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “I still run into people to this day, who refer to us as ‘John Ancrum,’” said Charleston Animal Society Senior Director of Community Engagement Kay Hyman.

In 2008, the organization’s name was shortened to Charleston Animal Society, just as it moved into its current location at 2455 Remount Road in North Charleston.

Margaret Waring was the President of the Animal Society during World War II and kept the organization running during difficult times.


A common misconception is that Charleston Animal Society was formed to shelter homeless animals. But it wasn’t until 74 years after its founding, that the Animal Society began to shelter animals
in response to the cruelty and death perpetrated on them by local governments.

During that time, it was a common practice for government to round-up stray dogs and kill them en masse by drowning
or other inhumane means. From New York City to Charleston, countless dogs met their final demise in the Hudson
or Ashley and Cooper Rivers. However, as the government-designated animal shelter in Charleston County, Charleston Animal Society worked for decades to lower euthanasia rates and push for more humane methods. In 1910, the Society was “authorized to purchase a gas tank,” as an alternative to drowning.

In 1948, building began on the first shelter located at 667 Meeting Street, now home to Patrick Veterinary Clinic. From downtown, the Society moved west, setting up first on St. Andrews Boulevard and then on Dupont Road in the 1960s. After this era, the Animal Society operated out of a trailer next door to the jail for 24 years. But the Society had to move from this Leeds Avenue location when the Sheriff’s Office needed the land to expand the jail. This allowed for the move to the current Remount Road campus.


Planning for entry into the 21st century, the organization’s leaders initiated public spay/neuter efforts along with teaching compassion to children. Both initiatives accelerated in growth in the early 2000s.

With the move to its current location at 2455 Remount Road in North Charleston, the Animal Society was still not adequate in size for this community. In fact, upon opening the current facility on Remount Road, it was overcrowded on day one.

However, as one of a dozen selected communities in a nationwide project called Mission Orange by the ASPCA, the Animal Society worked in partnership with the ASPCA over a five-year period to significantly increase Charleston County’s live release rate through leading practices and data-driven strategies and tactics.

In 2013, taking in well over 90% of the animals throughout Charleston County and despite overwhelming odds, the Animal Society built the first No Kill Community in the Southeast, saving all of the healthy and treatable animals in its care. This was a milestone for the southern United States as most animal welfare industry professionals thought it wasn’t possible in this region for at least another decade or so. Charleston Animal Society has not stopped its momentum as a national leader in improving the plight of animals.


Charleston Animal Society will be celebrating its rich history throughout the year at its multiple events beginning in March and continuing through December.

Keep your eyes peeled for a special commemorative edition of the Animal Society’s Carolina Tails Magazine in June. The remarkable history of Charleston Animal Society, anchored in leadership, tradition, and excellence, is only possible through its membership and community support. Over 60% of its funding is through contributions. Its membership is comprised of over 20,000 individuals who give a gift of their time [volunteers], their home [adopters], or their income [donors]. Without any of the three, like the proverbial three-legged milk stool, it would all collapse.