Mission & History
Our mission is to provide a safe and nurturing environment for abandoned and mistreated dogs and cats until they can be placed in loving homes. Raising awareness through public education, community outreach and a wellness clinic, we seek to promote respect for the lives of cats and dogs by breaking the cycle of abuse, neglect and pet overpopulation in our community.
Saint Frances Animal Center is a 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit organization serving Georgetown County.
History of Saint Frances Animal Center
The Saint Frances Animal Center was created in 1983 ago by a small group of community members concerned about the plight of the area’s soaring population of homeless dogs and cats. Then known as the Georgetown County Humane Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the group pushed for – and won – significant improvements in humane care for animals and made great strides in ensuring better efforts were made to find responsible adoptive homes. Led by Pawleys Island resident Betty Harris, public education about both the joys and responsibilities of adding a pet to the family and establishing a spay and neuter program were key initiatives.
It soon became apparent that more space was needed to care for the dogs and cats while loving, adoptive families were being sought. Negotiations with city officials resulted in the acquisition of an old house that was placed on the lot behind the city dog pound on Ridge Road. It was remodeled and repaired for use as an animal shelter, through a combination of volunteer labor and a trust established in the 70s by local animal lover Laura Abrams.
On December 13, 1986, the Georgetown County Humane Society opened its doors. The shelter was originally set up to house 50 animals, but in no time, there was as many as 80. A manager and an assistant were hired to run shelter operations and Dr. Randy Smith served as veterinary advisor. The organization achieved some public awareness and support, but things did not go smoothly in those early years. Money was tight, staff turnover was high and basic needs – such as a runs for medium and large dogs – were lacking. A generous donation provided a cat room and an outside dog run, which proved helpful. However, finances were still a constant concern. Worse still, in early 1998 Betty Harris was diagnosed with an illness that had a poor prognosis. The fate of the Humane Society looked very bleak. Financially there was only enough money to get through the end of the year. Newsletters were sent out informing supporters of the dire situation.
And then something wonderful happened. In the fall, a long-time loyal supporter from Pawleys Island set up a charitable trust for the society in accordance with her deceased husband’s wishes. She also donated some personal money to help the shelter get back on its feet. Her only request was for her identity to be kept confidential and the money to be put to good use.
Staff, volunteers and supporters alike were ecstatic. The funds were used to purchase desperately needed equipment and hire more staff to provide proper care for the animals. Cooperative relationships with local animal control and city and county officials also were established, allowing a unified approach to caring for homeless pets and great camaraderie. Adopt-A-Pet days and flea markets were held, increasing publicity by leaps and bounds.