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NEW FACILITY WILL HELP HOMELESS DOGS AND CATS

In the five-plus years since forming a private-public partnership, the Hilton Head Humane Association and Beaufort County Animal Services have made huge strides, but the biggest benefits are yet to come.

Crews broke ground on a new shared campus for the two organizations in October. The $8 million project is expected to be completed by December 2018 and will provide a centralized facility to better serve all of Beaufort County.

The 21,000-square-foot facility on a six-acre site off Pritcher Point Road in Okatie will include a second adoption center for Hilton Head Humane, a spay/neuter clinic, and a new county animal shelter, as well as a community dog park, walking trail, exercise yard and a pond shaped like a dog bone.

“We really think it’s going to be more centrally located for people, because we do service all of Beaufort County,” said the humane association’s executive director, Franny Gerthoffer. “Our goal is to make the campus more userfriendly. You don’t have to come even for a service, it will just be a nice place to come to. It will be developed so if people can come take a walk, bring their animal, have lunch, picnic, visit the animals or volunteer.”

Gerthoffer and Beaufort County Animal Services director Tallulah Trice say the new facility will help maintain the momentum the organizations have gained since partnering in 2012. During that span, the humane association has focused on finding homes for pets and assisting with animals’ health care to free up the county to focus on spay and neuter efforts. Overall, the partnership has resulted in a steady decrease in the county’s animal intake and a dramatic drop in the euthanasia rate.

The shelter has reduced its intake by one-third since 2011, and the euthanasia rate has fallen from 62 percent in 2011 to 17 percent in 2016. The mission is to reduce that number to zero.

“Our goals with this new campus include expanding our programs and services and continuing to raise awareness and community support in order to expand our life-saving programs and create a more humane county for all of our animals,” Trice said. “Beaufort County and Hilton Head Humane’s vision is to become a model open-admission shelter, a shelter that does not turn away an animal that has no place to go, and a true resource for the people and animals of Beaufort County.”

The county shelter continues to reduce its intake even though the area is in the midst of a population boom, which is a testament to the partnership’s commitment to a low-cost spay/neuter program and the free Trap Neuter Return program — and the cooperative spirit of both organizations.

“When animal groups work together,” Gerthoffer said, “great things happen.”