MANNING - More than 50 dogs and cats call A Second Chance Animal Shelter between Manning and Ram Bay home. Their stories are all different. Some were abandoned. Some were abused and neglected, while others were left behind because their owners could no longer care for them. One thing they all have in common - the need of a loving and caring home.
The shelter is home to 25 cats and 29 dogs, according to ASCAS' new director, Penny Hodge, who joined the staff two months ago when Sherree Myer retired after serving as director for five years.
"Right now, we don't have room for additional cats," Hodge added. "We're putting them on a waiting list until our new building for cats has been completed."
Hodge is one of 10 staff members. Sherri Arment is the office manager. Leslie Billups is the shelter's rescue coordinator, and Kayla Powell is its adoption coordinator. The shelter's kennel staff includes Howard Wells, Sharon Billips, Latavia Billips and Antron Billips. Teresa Avant and Maria Hutson work at A Second Chance Thrift Store at 537 S. Mill St., Manning, across from IGA and next door to Freedom Furniture.
The shelter's board members also take an active role in the facility. Board President Richard Long is a frequent visitor at the shelter, serving as its handyman working on mechanical and electrical repairs and carpentry.
"Without our volunteers and dedicated staff, we couldn't make a go of the shelter," Hodge said. "They keep us going. Each person has their specialties, and they all work well together. It's like a family here."
"Each person who has ever worked here has helped take us to another level," Long added. "They've all had input into making the facility what it is today."
Long became a part of the shelter after adopting a dog from the facility six years ago.
"The dog was really shy," Long said. "He would cower in the corner, but my wife sat with him and read to him and he's much better, but at times he's still skittish."
Hodge and Long agreed that the staff and volunteers work diligently with all the animals by giving them special attention such as long walks, sitting and talking with them and showing them love.
"Our volunteers come in and help out walking the animals," Hodge said. "They help with feeding, and they work building and furnishing many of the buildings."
Hodge stressed that ASCAS is a "no-kill" shelter.
"Some may call themselves no-kill shelters, but we're the real thing," she said. "Our animals are offered for adoption first, and then we look at having them rescued."
Long said that since the shelter began offering low-cost spaying and neutering services a couple of years ago, the shelter has seen more than 1,300 animals.
The surgeries are performed in an approved operating room by a Columbia veterinarian with more than 30 years of spaying and neutering experience.
"Dr. Rebecca Laster is wonderful," Long said. "She is well respected in the veterinarian community."
According to Myer, Laster will see between 28 and 30 animals during her monthly trips to the shelter.
Myer said the shelter is usually booked solid on the day that Laster visits. She added that owners must register their animals in advance for the services. The spaying service costs $70 for dogs and $60 for cats. Neutering costs $55 for dogs and $50 for cats. To spay/neuter a feral cat costs $40 and dogs $45. Call the shelter at (803) 473-7075 for more information.
The shelter also offers umbilical hernia repair, rabies shots, DA2PPv shots, Bordetella shots, heartworm tests, feline distemper shots, feline distemper with Leuk shots and feline FELV/FIV combo tests. Call the shelter for additional information and costs for each service.
Arment said that the shelter is quite strict when it comes to who adopts its animals.
"Many of these animals have been abused and mistreated, and we don't want that to happen again," she said. "We have people interested in adopting an animal fill out adoption papers and visit with the animals before we send an animal home with them."
Arment said if other animals are in the home, the shelter requires that they bring those animals to the shelter to see if all the animals are compatible. The shelter even has areas available where families with children and their animals can spend time with the potential adoptees before the animals are approved to go home with them.
"We don't want to send animals into an environment where there's the potential they'll return to the shelter," she said. "It's too stressful for them."
Long said that Arment and Powell make sure that no animals are adopted as gifts without going through the adoption process and the meet and greet.
"They make sure all of our animals go to good homes," Long added.
According to Hodge, the shelter depends on donations to keep going. Fundraisers are held annually to help with expenses, including an annual golf tournament, lasagna dinner and silent auction and Boo Gala.
"We also have an Angel Tree where people can pull the names of our animals and buy them Christmas treats and gifts," Arment said.
Volunteers, board members and staffers gather on Christmas Day to share the gifts with the animals and give them a little additional love that day, Long added.
The shelter is at 5079 Alex Harvin Highway, Manning. It's open to the public from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Individuals wishing to turn in animals must do so by appointment only.