By Aileen Goldstein
Rainbows of brightly colored walls are illuminated by the sunshine streaming in from the windows.
The cats seem to enjoy the warm rays and soak up the sun while lounging on various shelves and perches installed throughout the 10 free-roaming cat rooms.
The facility is not your average animal shelter. Traditional shelters are a maze of cage-lined walls filled with stray dogs and cats. The Palmetto Animal League is different. The 7,700-square-foot facility is anything but drab and institutional looking.
The Palmetto Animal League, also known as PAL, started as a rescue foundation years ago, but only built its first facility six years ago. The rescue organization is completely funded by private donations and the building was donated.
Located in the Riverwalk Business Park in Okatie, the facility has the ability to house 150 adoption-ready dogs and cats.
“When we opened, we opened in the middle of a recession and the greatest number of intakes we had at that time were people losing their homes and could not find a place to live with their pets or didn’t have the money for the updated veterinary care their animals needed to move into a particular place,” said PAL president Amy Campanini.
Most of the rescues animals today come from a combination of owner relinquishment, strays and animals pulled from municipal shelters.
PAL is a no-kill shelter that works to place animals that might otherwise face euthanasia.
The facility also offers a clinic for veterinary needs.
“We identified early on that a clinic would be a key component to keeping dogs and cats out of shelters,” said Campanini.
The community clinic offers a variety of veterinary services, but focuses on wellness and prevention.
According to Campanini, there are a few key things to be aware of when considering adopting a new pet.
First and foremost, she cautions people that “it is a lifetime commitment for that animal, so be realistic about your expectations and your lifestyle.”
Some people come to the center and expect to adopt a dog, but realize they are not home enough during the day to care for the dog, so a cat might be a better choice.
Campanini urges people not to believe the myths about cats not making good pets.
“We have a lot of cats at risk in our community and they do make wonderful companion animals, and in a lot of ways they are easier to take care of,” she said.
When choosing an animal to adopt, Campanini said it is important to choose a pet based on energy and personality. A family might think a small dog is the easiest to care for, but in reality it might be the largest dog at the center.
“Love is the most important thing, but there is a financial component to bringing a pet into your home. Be prepared to have extra costs in your family budget to properly care for an animal,” warned Campanini.
The Palmetto Animal League works to offset high costs associated with pet ownership through their community clinic.
PAL is always in need of foster homes for animals and Campanini encourages even part-time residents to consider fostering a rescue animal.
Above all else, the center’s biggest need is adopters. Campanini reminds people that shelter dogs and cats are not damaged goods.
“You get a very healthy animal that has been behaviorally accessed. The value is unbelievable,” she says.