Pawmetto Lifeline is on a mission. “In our community, more than 21,000 unwanted animals go to municipal shelters each year,” says Denise Wilkinson, CEO of the nonprofit. “Once they get there, more than 18,000 of them are euthanized. Roughly $3 million tax dollars are spent in this process. There is another way.”
Pawmetto Lifeline, a 501(c)3 formerly known as Project Pet, is a community-based effort founded by volunteers from four animal welfare organizations who hoped to reduce local pet over-population. In just 10 years, that small start-up has evolved into a pet care powerhouse. Today, Pawmetto Lifeline is in the midst of celebrating the grand opening of the Meyer-Finlay Pet Adoption Center of Lexington and Richland Counties, a brand-new, state-of-the-art 27,000 square-foot, no-kill pet center on Bower Parkway.
“Our new facility is a dream that’s become a reality,” says Denise. “When we were approached by Lexington and Richland counties for a solution to cope with local animal over-population, we already had a plan.”
This efficient, effective plan and vision piqued the interest of someone they’d never even met: Austin Meyer.
Inspired by a roadside spay/neuter billboard, Austin and Lane, his wife, sought to help as many local homeless cats and dogs as they could. After interviewing a number of local organizations, they selected Pawmetto Lifeline and generously donated $1.5 million. Their donation effectively put shovels to dirt and gave the organization a strong kick-start to securing a state-of-the-art home for its ever-growing menu of services.
Sterling is a beagle mix available for adoption from Pawmetto Lifeline.
Today the group is a go-to pet resource for many surrounding communities. In addition to pet adoption, Pawmetto Lifeline offers services such as a spay-neuter clinic, a low-cost mobile vaccination service, shelter rescue, humane education and a transport program, and its volunteers do everything from animal socialization work to fostering pets.
“In July 2011, we started our HEART program in conjunction with municipal shelters,” says Natasha Drozdak, director of marketing and communications. “Our staff goes into the shelters to photograph and profile animals at risk for being euthanized. The profiles and photos are spread to 501(c)3 rescue organizations in hopes of the pets being taken in by loving homes.”
In just six months, Pawmetto Lifeline’s HEART program has meant the world to 962 animals. They found a lifeline and landed in new homes with families who adore them.
This year, Pawmetto Lifeline hopes to save 5,000 animals with this intervention.
Natasha credits another successful monthly program for matching families with pets who desperately need homes. Pawmetto Lifeline’s transport service provides ground travel — and sometimes air travel from volunteer pilots and planes — to the northeast United States.
“Often we find some of our long-termers, the hardest to adopt, are able to find homes in the Northeastern United States,” says Natasha. “With strict spay/neuter laws in place, these communities and shelters usually don’t have a lot of pets to be adopted. Here, we have too much supply and not enough demand.”
One service they’ve been eager to offer for years is an onsite spay/neuter clinic. “We were recently honored to be named a member of the National Spay/Neuter Response Team by the Human Alliance. They are providing us with the training and standards to effectively manage a high-volume spay/neuter clinic,” explains Natasha. “We want our clinic to be credible, reputable and provide high-quality medicine for the communities we serve.”
(L to R) Furman, a tabby mix, and Jean and Becker, calico mixes, are available for adoption at Pawmetto Lifeline.
The training will allow the group to offer low- to no-cost pet sterilization services for those who cannot afford the expensive but necessary service. “We want to do all we can to educate people and prevent unwanted litters of animals,” says Natasha.
Pawmetto Lifeline’s long-term goal is to make the Midlands a no-kill community. “We want to reach the point where no healthy or treatable adoptable pet is euthanized,” says Natasha.
While the national average for euthanasia use in shelters is 64 percent, the local rate is much higher. In the Midlands, 82 percent of pets that find their way to municipal shelters are euthanized. For animal lovers, that’s a tough pill to swallow.
Luckily, abandoned and homeless animals in the Midlands have a staunch ally working hard to make that percentage a single digit: zero. As far as Pawmetto Lifeline is concerned, that day can’t get here fast enough.
For more information on the pets featured here or other pets available for adoption at Pawmetto Lifeline, call (803) 465-9100 or visit www.pawmettolifeline.org.