A league of her own: PAL president works to give abandoned animals a second chance

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By William Laney

A sanitation worker was about to empty a Dumpster when he heard a noise. He looked inside and saw a box, taped with duct tape, that had something moving in it. In the box was a 4-week-old puppy with a wire wound tightly around his front right leg, which, because of the wire, was dead and rotting. Palmetto Animal League removed the leg and saved the pup’s life.  Then found him a loving home. This is just one of their hundreds of successful pet adoption stories.

Who: Amy Campanini, president of Palmetto Animal League (PAL), Beaufort County’s only no-kill animal adoption center.

Amy Campanini is the president of the Palmetto Animal League.
Amy Campanini is the president of the Palmetto Animal League.

PAL opened its first adoption center on October 30, 2010, after eight years of managing a network of loving foster families to house and care for Beaufort County’s abandoned and homeless animals. The Adoption Center, which includes living space for approximately 150 adoption ready cats and dogs, serves as headquarters for the league’s operations. They offer animals a friendly, comfortable, low-stress environment which encourages humans to visit, adopt, volunteer and get involved. Their new 7,700-square-foot building is located in Riverwalk Business Park in Okatie.

Amy Campanini, a native of Lancaster, Pa., started her adult life as a professionally trained chef as a graduate of Johnson and Wales University.

Says Amy, “I spent eight years on large private motor yachts as a chef.  It was a unique experience and really expanded my mind.”

But in 2001 her direction in life began to change when she started as a volunteer with the Palmetto Animal League rescuing and finding homes for abused, neglected and homeless animals.

Amy says, “I think it is absolutely morally wrong to round up animals and systematically kill them for no fault of their own. I wanted to be part of stopping that killing. In 2001, I felt there was a huge need … for a second chance for animals and for their families. It wasn’t defined when I began, I just knew we had to do more.”

She became their first director and president of PAL seven years ago in 2006 and has been a major part in building the organization into the success it is today.

“When I started with PAL we were a foster care organization with no bricks and mortar location so I had limited interaction with the human side of animal sheltering,” Amy said. “When we opened the facility three years ago, I really got to see the people.  It is not what we are led to believe.  The people behind most of these animals are heart broken by their loss of having to give up a pet, losing a pet, not having the resources to care for a pet and it goes on. There are dirt bags (you can choose a better word!) but most of the need we see is genuinely lack of education, awareness and old-fashioned irresponsibility. What I hope we will have some day is a world where all of the animals that need true shelter will find it in every facility that calls itself one.”

She adds, “I feel I work for the best company in the world.  Nonprofit work is hard and add homeless animals to the mix and it gets harder.  The people I get to work with every day are amazing and they make what could be a depressing and dreary job an adventure. Every member of our staff, caring for these animals every day, is uniquely made for the job. I witness love, kindness and tenderness for these animals daily and it makes me believe in the basic good nature human beings have. It is not limited to the staff — the volunteers, board, donors and supporters are doing anything and everything they can to help animals. I am filled with gratitude and joy daily. And we have fun! Working with animals and the people who love them teaches you so much about yourself. The animals keep it lively and entertaining every day. They all have different personalities. The stories are endless.”

Why Beaufort? Amy says, “Twenty years ago, I had the dream to live in a Southeastern small town of historical significance. I landed in Savannah first. Drove through Beaufort on a whim and fell in love. I felt I had come home.  I love the feel, the energy of the town and the strange diversity of the people who choose to make Beaufort their home. And it’s just drop dead gorgeous.”

The future of PAL: Says Amy, “PAL’s future looks very bright as we bring more and more programs on board for the animals in our community.  This year we launched our Animal Welfare Club so we can educate children of all ages effectively and get them really engaged. I am very excited to announce that our Low Cost Wellness and Spay/Neuter Community Clinic will be opening later this year. I am just happy to be a part of it all. This work keeps me very busy but it is a lifestyle for me. I can barely call it a job.  I get to meet the craziest and most fantastic people. At work, I have an office and building full of animals and go home to a house full of animal love. The present and future are extremely satisfying.”

Concludes Amy, “We can save all the animals. There’s no reason we can’t work together to save them all. Not only we can, we must.”

To adopt a loving pet:

Visit the Adoption Center at 56 Riverwalk Boulevard, Okatie, SC, 29936, open Monday through Saturday, 12 to 7 p.m.

To donate to the cause:

Send checks to:

Post Office Box 539

Bluffton, SC 29910

Or donate online at www.PalmettoAnimalLeague.org.

To volunteer:

Palmetto Animal League relies on animal lovers to help with their life-saving programs.  Some of PAL’s volunteer opportunities include:

• Foster Parent: Make a difference in the life of an animal by opening your heart and home until they are ready for adoption.

• Dog Enrichment and Socializing: Keep the dogs in the adoption center healthy and happy by walking, playing and bathing them.

• Feline Enrichment and Socializing: Keep cats happy, active and social by playing and cuddling with them in the spacious adoption center.

• Special Events/Adoption Events: Assist by being a Kitty or Dog Ambassador at off-site adoption events or be an ambassador at community events.

• Administrative: Put talents to work in the adoption center by working at the front desk, meeting and greeting visitors, doing computer work or miscellaneous office activities.

• Thrift Store: Volunteer at Animal House Thrift. Volunteers are needed to assist customers, sort and stock clothes and merchandise or work the sales counter and cash register in a relaxed and friendly environment.

Please contact the Adoption Center at 645-1725 or email info@palmettoanimalleague.org for more information on volunteering.