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About Us

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Our Story

In 1874, Charleston Animal Society was formed as the first animal protection organization in South Carolina and one of the first in the nation. Its purpose was then, and has always been, to prevent cruelty to animals. Almost 20,000 animals will turn to Charleston Animal Society for caring, compassion and hope this year alone.

More than an animal shelter, today Charleston Animal Society is a thought leader in the welfare and well-being of animals. In addition to caring for homeless animals, from hamsters to horses, adopting pets into new homes, and reuniting lost pets with their families, the organization responds to animals in crisis as a result of both man-made and natural disasters.

The veterinary medical department at Charleston Animal Society is accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association, an achievement attained by only about 12% of animal hospitals in the United States and Canada. The comprehensive shelter medicine program not only provides direct care for as many as 300 resident animals at one time, the shelter veterinarians also spay or neuter pets to prevent pet overpopulation and provide emergency medical services to critically ill and injured animals arriving at the shelter.

The History

Charleston Animal Society was originally known as the South Carolina Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In 1880, a group of citizens, including many distinguished people of the times, met for the purpose of incorporating into a formal humane society. The group’s immediate concerns were to combat the neglect of working-animals, the inhumane shipping of cattle, and to resolve the epidemic of stray dogs. The newly formed Society elected Professor N. Russell Middleton as its first president. Middleton was succeeded as president by Dr. John Ancrum. Dr. Ancrum served as president for several years, and died sometime in the early 1900s. Upon his death, the Society received a portion of his estate with the condition that it adopt his name. The Society officially became known as the John Ancrum Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1940.

The Society documented its first cruelty conviction in 1947 and in 1948 the organization raised enough funds to build its first shelter. Located at 667 Meeting Street, the shelter was located on the property of Dr. Leon Willis, adjoining his animal hospital. It was approximately 10'x12' and contained 14 two-tiered cages and an outdoor run. Dr. and Mrs. Willis managed the shelter and maintained the records at no charge to the Society. In a few years the number of stray dogs and cats awaiting adoption overcrowded this facility, and the Society was obliged to provide larger quarters. The second shelter was built on the premises of Dr. Ernest Horres at 188 St Andrew’s Boulevard. Dr. Horres also provided services without charge. As the needs of the society grew, this shelter also became inadequate to meet the needs of the Society, and in 1961 the shelter was relocated to 820 Dupont Road. The Society remained at this location until 1979, when once again space became inadequate to meet the ever-increasing needs of the animals.

The John Ancrum SPCA moved to Leeds Avenue December 31, 1980, remaining there for more than 28 years. During this time the SPCA developed a strong relationship with Charleston County. As a result, the county closed its own animal pound and contracted with the SPCA to provide care for all of the animals collected by animal control officers throughout Charleston County. This strong relationship between the Society and Charleston County continues today.

The organization officially changed its name to the Charleston Animal Society in December 2007. The new name better reflects our role in the community as a collection of individuals committed to helping animals through adoptions, rescue, aggressive spay and neuter, humane education and fundraising. In the spring of 2008, we completed our move into a brand new state-of-the-art 31,000 square foot adoption center and veterinary medical facility located at 2455 Remount Road in North Charleston. Through the use of this life-saving facility, we now have the ability to house and care for nearly three times the number of homeless, neglected, or abused animals than we were able to in the old Leeds Avenue facility. We have a state-of-the-art low-cost spay and neuter clinic on-site to accelerate our efforts to eliminate rampant animal overpopulation and encourage more adoptions in the pleasant and welcoming atmosphere of the new building.

Mission & Vision

Our Mission

Since its founding, our mission has always stayed the same: The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In 1874, Charleston Animal Society became the first animal organization in South Carolina and one of the first in the Nation and has never turned our local animals away.

Our Vision

Our Vision is one where all healthy and treatable animals are saved. It’s a vision where all people and animals are treated with respect and kindness. And it envisions a world where cruelty is not tolerated.

woman with horse

Life-Saving Strategies

Our 10-Point Strategic Framework consists of the following programs and services:


Finding homes for homeless animals through adoptions is a key plank of our no kill strategy. In 2019, Charleston Animal Society found homes for 5,266 homeless animals through aggressive adoption programs.

Foster families open their homes to animals in need until they are old enough and/or healthy enough to be adopted. Charleston Animal Society has over 350 foster families that actively participate in fostering each year and in 2019, fostered 2,495 of the most at - risk animals.

In 2019, our veterinarians and American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) accredited clinic prevented 9,682 animals from giving birth to unwanted litters through high volume, high quality spay and neuter procedures.

Our on-site veterinarians are able to treat animals that most animal shelters wouldn't event accept. We treat heartworm disease, broken bones, and horrible cases of abuse. Donated funds allow us to obtain equipment and provide treatment to animals that traditional shelters would euthanize due to the severity of the case.

Fighting animal cruelty has been our mission since Charleston Animal Society was founded in 1874. We work closely with law enforcement and lawmakers to make sure animal cruelty laws are enforced and strengthened. In 2019, Charleston Animal Society aided in the investigations of 84 cruelty cases in Charleston County.

In 2018, Charleston Animal Society administered 66,407
vaccinations to the community’s animals to contain the outbreak of deadly diseases harmful to both animals and humans.

REUNITING LOVED ONES WITH THEIR FAM ILIES- LOST & FOUND Charleston Animal Society's Lost & Found program uses every means possible, including social media to get lost animals back home. In 2018, Charleston Animal Society reunited 1,176 animals with their families.


Our trap-vaccinate-alter & return to habitat initiative is a model program for the rest of the nation. We reach out into the community and manage cat colonies in a positive way, so they won't reproduce. In addition to being spayed/ neutered, vaccinated and ear -tipped, Charleston Animal Society returned 1,566 free roaming cats to the field in 2018 to continue living out their lives (whereas many shelters across the United States still euthanize these cats).

Every year we help hundreds of families keep their pets healthy, when they run into difficulty affording the food or care t heir animals need. We host a food bank, assist with medical care, and perform much needed outreach in the community to ensure that we are spreading awareness through education and relationships and getting animals the care they need. In 2019, Charleston Animal Society distributed 55,000 pounds of pet food to families in need, and helped 2,412 families keep their pets in their homes (and out of shelters).

Charleston Animal Society offers a comprehensive humane education initiative that we take into Charleston area classrooms at teacher request every year. We are uniquely positioned to teach kindness and thus preventing cruelty in creative ways. Teaching children to be compassionate to animals and in turn, others pays huge dividends. Programs include summer BARK camps, high school leadership volunteers, Pet Buddies Club, the Veterinary Science Initiative, Scout Programs, and even Birthday Parties with Purpose at the Shelter. In 2019 alone, humane educators taught over 22,000 lessons in compassion.