Shelter Spotlight: Darlington County Humane Society

By Josh Witten, Ph.D.

The Darlington County Humane Society (DCHS) was founded in 1996 to improve the conditions at what was then known as the Darlington County Pound. Located at the end of a dead-end access road marked by only two small signs, the shelter and animals were positioned to be kept out of sight and out of mind.

Now, DCHS is a No Kill South Carolina partner organization and is engaged in a comprehensive effort to rethink
how animal services are provided. Visit Darlington County today and you will see new programs, engagement with local stakeholders, and construction of a new, state-of-the-art facility.


Since 2015, DCHS has helped save the lives of over 19,000 dogs and cats. Every year, DCHS cares for one animal for every 20 Darlington County residents. As with shelters across the country, 2023 was particularly challenging with a 13% increase in intakes at DCHS, particularly for stray dogs.

Building partnerships has been one ingredient in the shelter’s success. DCHS has teamed up with the Best Friends Network, Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA), Charleston Animal Society, as well as countless shelters and rescues to increase their live outcome rate to 83% in 2023 from 72% in 2021. DCHS was named the “Most Pawductive” shelter in the Pee Dee region during the 2023 Pick Me! SC adoption drive.


The current shelter facilities, however, still resemble the Darlington County Pound of old. It is still best described as a series of unconnected mobile structures with few enclosed buildings that house animals. DCHS staff and volunteers spend countless hours and dollars replenishing water, wrapping blankets, deploying tarps, powering heat lamps, and running fans to keep animals from freezing or overheating to protect them from the extremes of South Carolina weather. These necessary efforts imposed by the existing shelter facilities limit the improvements that can be made by DCHS’s dedicated staff and volunteers.

Starting in 2018, DCHS set out to create a new facility that would be worthy of its staff, volunteers, community, and
the animals in their care. They broke ground in July 2023 on a new, $8 million animal adoption and education facility. Support for the construction of the facility has come from the Nemec-Abbott Foundation, Byerly Foundation, Sonoco Products Company, the State of South Carolina, A.O. Smith, Nucor of South Carolina, North Industrial Machine, and many community donors.

“This is a groundbreaking, citizen- driven project,” said Senator Gerald Malloy, Senate District 29. “Darlington County Humane Society has been led by compassionate servant leaders for decades and our community and our state elected officials recognize that the plan for progress they’ve put in place will have a lasting impact on our community for generations to come.”

The entire Darlington legislative delegation supported the new shelter including Senator Malloy, Rep. Robert Williams, Rep. Patricia Henegan and Rep. Cody Mitchell.

The new facility will be located on six acres in the heart of the Hartsville, SC business district. The main structure will be a metal, prefabricated building designed by Nucor of South Carolina and McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture. The new facility will feature enclosed kennels, doggie play yards, a medical suite, and a multi- purpose education space.

DCHS will use the new facility not only to improve care for animals, but also to provide community education programs to educate the public on pet ownership, promote community volunteerism, and animal welfare workforce development for students. After completion in late 2024, the new DCHS facility will provide a home for educational programming and offer education credit opportunities.

“Teaching the importance of community and education to our children will create a generation that is equipped to give back while helping develop career paths that can define their future,” said Dr. Tim Newman, Darlington County School District Superintendent.


DCHS is charting a path forward for long- term success in caring for the animals of Darlington County by providing the existing passion and effort of DCHS staff and volunteers with a facility that will act as a catalyst rather than an anchor. At the same time, the commitment and resources to increase education and community engagement will help ensure that these efforts are sustained, and that the workforce needed to meet future challenges is being developed.

To learn more about DCHS’s new animal adoption and education center, including supporting this transformative effort, visit

Editor’s Note: Josh Witten, Ph.D. is the Chairman of the DCHS Board of Directors.