Expansion on the Horizon?


CAROLINA TAILS: Tell us about the expansion of the Charleston Animal Society campus.
JOE ELMORE: This project would benefit South Carolina residents and animals for decades to come. A very important step in the process was to access the land that is adjacent to our current campus in North Charleston. In May, the North Charleston City Council unanimously voted to generously donate the land to Charleston Animal Society for the expansion

CT: The project is largely conceptual right now and needs to go through feasibility studies, but what is the vision?

JE: It’s sort of threefold in terms of what it aims to do, but it will be a multipurpose expansion. Part of the vision is a large-scale veterinary clinic to address accessible and affordable vet care, which is a big issue for not only animal shelters across South Carolina, but for pet owners across the state. Secondly, would be an overcapacity emergency shelter, and that would help with these large cruelty situations and when shelters are overwhelmed. It will also be used to house animals if we take a direct hit from a large hurricane. Thirdly, an education center would be included to train animal welfare professionals across South Carolina and elsewhere, along with creating an employment path for high school students to learn animal welfare vocations and pursue a career. We want to elevate the standard of training and knowledge.

CT: You mentioned education will also be a key part of this expansion?
JE: Yes, an important part of all this is to amplify the compassion education that we are currently offering. We teach compassion education to kids in schools, on weekends here at the shelter and in summer and holiday camps. We don’t advertise our summer camps, other than we put it up on our own website and it’s sold out for the whole summer in a day and a half. If we can quadruple the number of kids that go through compassion education, knowing that it’s a learned behavior, then we should be able to make an impact on the accelerating violence we are seeing with teens.

CT: Will there be room to help more with farm animals?
JE: Yes. We would like the plan to include a barn to enable us to have a farm animal presence on campus so that we can incorporate that into our compassion education classes. Too many children in Charleston County and the Tricounty area never get to see farm animals, so this would be a huge benefit.

CT: What will a shelter expansion like this cost?
JE: That’s why we’re doing the feasibility study. Back in 2018, which is when we completed the strategic plan, we were estimating somewhere between $10 million and $15 million. But that was without the emergency overcapacity shelter. Now with construction costs going up, we really have to complete the feasibility study to get a solid cost estimate. There will be a capital campaign involved, but we’re not announcing that yet because we don’t know what the cost would be and what the goals would be. That’s why we’re very careful in articulating that this is a process and we want to do it right, because we want it to be successful. CT: People are going to be excited to see this! How can they get involved? What can they do?

JE: What we’re asking our supporters to do is to stay tuned on this. We’re going to be releasing information from this point forward, all along the way, but it’s not going to be real fast. This is a long-term project, and we want to make sure that we’ve crossed all the Ts and dotted all the Is, especially in these turbulent times with a projected recession.

CT: Is there a date where you would like to see this completed by?
JE: I would love to see us solidify the funding and everything by our 150th anniversary, which would be March 14th, 2024. In terms of building it, there are so many variables including a possible recession on the horizon and construction delays, that it’s difficult to say. Finally, we cannot move forward with this project until we grow our operational funding, so that we will be in the position to impact the lives of all these thousands of additional animals and children. At Charleston Animal Society, we solve problems rather than react to them every day — and that is what this expansion is all about.