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Two Orangeburg women have formed a coalition to combat animal homelessness in the community.

Cindy Smith and Julie Fersner established the nonprofit Second Chance of Orangeburg Animal Rescue Coalition in 2012 and are working to build the partnerships needed to support the group’s no-kill sanctuary.

“Nothing’s going to happen overnight, but building partnerships is one of the most crucial factors of a no-kill community. If business, industry, government and community leaders believe in the same mission, then we’ll accomplish this goal,” Smith said.

While she did not want to disclose the exact location of the group’s no-kill sanctuary for safety reasons, Smith said, “We have 13 dogs that were either dying or were going to be put to death had Second Chance not rescued them.”

The ultimate goal is to keep the Orangeburg County Animal Control office from having to euthanize animals, she said.

“It’s not something they enjoy doing, and they would prefer people to step up and help. But we’re trying to keep them from having to kill any animals and get (spay/neuter) programs in place,” Smith said.

“We are in desperate need of adoptive and foster families. This gets the dogs into a home environment.”

“My partner and I put a lot of our money into it, but a lot of it comes from the community — people who care about animals the way we do. They may not be able to foster or adopt an animal, but they can help fund some of their medical care and help us buy more kennels,” Smith said.

Fersner works full-time but still manages to feed the dogs, give them needed medication, clean pens and provide playful interaction with the animals, Smith said, noting that volunteers are needed to walk and feed the dogs and clean kennels.

“It’s a little overwhelming and it hurts a lot because right now we can’t save them all. My partner does all of the physical labor, but my job is to raise the money to do the marketing and make sure she has the resources she needs,” she said.

Smith added, “I also keep talking in the community about the need for spay and neuter programs. There is a need.”

The Second Chance coalition is currently just Smith and Fersner, but they’re working on building a board of directors.

“We also work closely with the SPCA, and we’ve had (requests) from the Mary Ann Morris Animal Society (in Bamberg County) and the Calhoun County Animal Shelter to help them. We try to help them when we can, but right now our sanctuary is full. Every pen we purchased or had donated to us is full,” Smith said.

Orangeburg County Administrator Harold Young said the county is not sitting idly by in its effort to control the homeless animal population.

“Right now, the county doesn’t have a full-scale spay and neuter program, but this is something we’ve been in the process of getting ramped up. We’ve got to get responses back from local veterinarians, and they want the specifics of the program before they commit,” Young said. “Vets have a lot of costs, and you can’t expect them to do something for free.”

In the meantime, the county has been tapping into low-cost sterilization services provided by Pawmetto Lifeline and the Humane Society of South Carolina in Columbia.

“We direct a lot of people who can’t pay full price to them,” Young said.

The administrator said the county is also ramping up its own low-cost sterilization service called “2-Sam,” which distributes special spay/neuter discount coupons to promote spaying and neutering as the humane, effective means of reducing the number of animals that are put down in shelters each year.

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He said euthanizing animals is not something the county “takes pleasure in,” but it is a “necessary evil at this point until we can get more people to step up and give these animals homes.”

In regard to the 2-Sam program, Young said, “Hopefully, in the next couple of budget years, the county can come together and put some monies together to allow them to increase the spay and neutering program.”

“We support a lot of other entities, too, that want to have a spay-and-neuter day.”

He said the county has made strides in enforcing laws against illegal breeders and phony “rescues,” but he said citizens also have to “be a responsible pet owner” and have their pets spayed and neutered.

Young said the county’s work with the Orangeburg SPCA Maude Schiffley Chapter, the county’s oldest established pet rescue and advocacy charitable organization that operates a no-kill, nonprofit adoption center, also has helped reduce the stray animal population and place animals in loving homes.

“We’ve been working closely with the SPCA because of their structure. They have organization, the facilities and a building. We have really turned the corner with animal control because what we don’t want to do is find ourselves trying to work with outside entities and end up doing something that gets the county in trouble,” he said.

Smith said, “We need to build that army of compassion. There’s a saying that history will judge a community based on how they treat their animals, and I’d like to be judged favorably.”

Second Chance held an Adopt-a-Thon event in which three animals were adopted earlier this year. It is also working on doing more fundraising. The group is participating in a Belk Charity Sale on Nov. 8 and is selling $5 tickets, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to support the coalition and discount coupons for shoppers.

For more information about the fundraiser or the Second Chance coalition, contact Smith by phone at 803-535-9600 or by email at cbs1008@aol.com.

Contact the writer: dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5534. Follow “Good News with Gleaton” on Twitter @DionneTandD.

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Contact the writer: 803-533-5534

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Staff Writer

Dionne Gleaton has been a staff writer with The T&D for 20 years. She has been an education reporter, regional reporter and currently writes features with an emphasis on health.

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