In traditional dog years, the Orangeburg Maude Schiffley Chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals would be about 420 years old. In cat years, about 750 years old.
In mere human years, however, the organization, which was formally incorporated on Oct. 22, 1957 by Schiffley and some of her friends who saw a need for rescuing stray and unwanted animals, is marking its 60th year.
During its six decades, the chapter has blossomed.
"We have progressed as the most visible welfare organization in the community," Orangeburg SPCA President Rodney Tumbleston said.
In the beginning
Prior to incorporation, Schiffley and her friends had become concerned about unwanted and homeless animals. Without a physical location from which to operate, they found foster parents who were willing to care for the animals until permanent homes could be found. The group would meet at Schiffley's Lowman Street home.
The SPCA chapter's certification of incorporation lists as officers W.S. Fairey, president; J.C. Godowns, vice president; W.C. Wannamaker Jr., treasurer; and Glorida Murdaugh, secretary.
For years, Schiffley took telephone calls about strays, stopped by the side of the road to bury dead animals and kept a small zoo in her home. Her animal welfare efforts came to an end in 1960 due to the lack of funds and community support. Schiffley died a year later.
In 1971, a group of concerned citizens met at the Orangeburg County Library to discuss reviving the organization. They named the rescue in memory of Maude Schiffley.
In 1984, the small SPCA board held meetings at the fire station on Middleton Street, and stray and unwanted animals were housed in the Pampered Pet Motel on Bayne Street. Leaders at the time felt that in order to accomplish anything, the group needed to meet more than every couple of months. The chapter began meeting on a monthly basis and became better organized.
Over the years, the SPCA met at various locations including local restaurants and retail stores while searching for a more permanent home. The search for an adequate location for a shelter began in earnest in 1987.
Land was found, and in September 1989, animals began being housed at the County Animal Shelter on Ruf Road off of St. Matthews Road. Some SPCA members, however, were concerned about sharing a building with the county’s Animal Control department. The SPCA is a no-kill program, but Animal Control would frequently euthanize animals if homes could not be found for them. Space was limited at the shelter, and animals who couldn't be placed in homes were euthanized.
In 2007, the SPCA chapter's concerns were renewed when the Animal Control program manager and four officers were fired amid a probe of the shelter’s euthanasia procedures. Some of the employees were charged with ill treatment of animals.
This concern prompted the county to build a new facility for Animal Control off of Ellis Avenue in 2009. Extensive renovations to the original Ruf Road building were completed in January 2010. In May of the same year, that building opened up as the SPCA shelter.
The move enabled the Maude Schiffley Chapter of the SPCA to expand.
A new day
Tumbleston said this marked a real turning point for the organization locally.
"That is really a progression in the last 10 years -- because we are not housed in a facility that was a high-kill euthanasia facility -- to a no-kill, true animal welfare presence in the community," he said.
The shelter today has about 27 dog runs, some of which can be used for three puppies at a time. The facility also houses three cat rooms, or catteries, and a large, new handicapped-accessible restroom.
Other shelter amenities include a grooming room, where the animals get their baths; a medical room, where new pet arrivals are weighed, vaccinated and dewormed, and a laundry room.
The new shelter became a more pleasing atmosphere for potential pet adopters, who in the past had been leery of coming into a building to adopt a pet where they knew animals were euthanized.
In addition to pet adoption, the shelter provides other services to the public including a foster care program for puppies and kittens who need bottle feeding or animals who need socializing. The Dog Bite Prevention Program is available for pre-school and elementary students ages 4-9 years.
A program is also offered that gives low-income families reduced price spay-neuter certificates.
The SPCA’s funding comes from donations and fundraisers, including a golf tournament, Bark in the Park and The Times and Democrat’s annual Pet Idol Contest.
Bark in the Park is the largest of the fundraisers.
Heading into the future, Tumbleston said the organization wants to continue to expand its adoption program and its community educational outreach, especially in promoting the value of spaying and neutering.
"We want to bring the community a couple of pegs up on being responsible pet owners and a responsible community as it relates to domestic pets in our community," Tumbleston said.
He said the SCPA chapter is also focused on continuing to build a base of support so it can last another 60 years.
"We need to step up our corporate support," Tumbleston said. "We need to make that foundation of support more sound and to bring more folks in."