Residents devoted part of their holiday season to helping pets and pet owners in need.
The Humane Society of Lancaster County recently distributed two car loads full of cat and dog food to pet owners in need. Starting on Christmas Eve, the group offered one bag of dog food or six cans of cat food to any pet owner that asked. At first, according to Humane Society President Mary Reimers, there were few takers. But after Christmas Day, the Humane Society hotline was flooded with calls. Dozens of people stopped by the organization's headquarters on Main Street in Lancaster and by Dec. 31, only a few cans of cat food remained.
"We're not surprised. We see the number of animals being turned in at the shelter and they say, 'We can't afford to feed them,' and I can understand that with the way the economy is," Reimers said.
The majority of the food given away by the Humane Society came from Indian Land resident Brian Cosby. While at an American Pet Cross meeting, Cosby heard the Charlotte Humane Society had an excess of pet food they couldn't use. Without missing a beat, Cosby took his truck to the Charlotte office and loaded it up.
Some of the pet food also came from a fundraiser by students at Buford High School in Lancaster.
Rudy Shipton, an animal control officer, said that the animal shelter is seeing a big increase in the number of animals being dropped off because families can't afford to feed them. The economy is hitting pet owners hard, he said.
On an average day, the shelter might take in two or three new animals. Recently, Shipton said, that number has grown. On Dec. 29, they took in 16 pets in one day.
Cosby and Reimers hope the offer of free pet food helped some pet owners keep their animals at home.
"I do believe if you give someone a way around turning their pets in, they will take that because they love their pets, " Cosby said.
The Humane Society of Lancaster was formed in Sept. after the Humane Society of Lancaster County disbanded over conflicts among members. The newly formed group is in the process of getting their federal nonprofit status.
Cosby moved to Indian Land in November and immediately "hit the ground running," he said. He contacted Reimers and become involved with the local Humane Society by offering to foster pets until a permanent home could be found for them.
He has worked with the Humane Society in Charlotte and continues to work as a member of the American Pet Cross, a national animal group that helps protect pets in part by working with groups like the Humane Society.
"Your contribution can be seen in reduction of euthanasia," Cosby said.
In Fort Mill, the Humane Society of York County is trying out a new way to raise money for animals and they're having success already.
The society renovated the space in the back of their office on Carolina Place Drive and created a thrift shop called Pawsabilities where anyone can drop off anything - new or used - and it will be resold at highly discounted prices.
"The response has been absolutely fantastic," said thrift shop volunteer Elaine Siegel of Tega Cay. Every worker in the thrift shop is a volunteer, Siegel said.
During the holidays, Siegel, a realtor, decorated her home with an extravagant array of Christmas lights and put out a donation can for the humane society. As of Monday, more than $160 was collected. The display will be taken down this weekend.
Pam Williams, another volunteer, said workers have spent the last month setting up all of the donated merchandise.
"We'll keep changing it, keep it fresh," Williams said.
The idea for the shop came from five core volunteers at the humane society, Williams said.
"It started as a yard sale in the front every month or two," said volunteer Molly Hunter. "It just made more sense to open up [the shop] here on site."
Robby Chappell, a veterinarian at the Humane Society, provided the space and the Humane Society takes care of utilities, Williams said. The Humane Society, as well as receiving a little extra income, is benefiting from the thrift shop in other ways.
"We've already seen an increase in adoptions," said Humane Society Director Vickie Frain. "We're really glad the volunteers are handling the shop. People think while they are there, they might as well take a look at the animals."
The society has more than 50 cats and about 20 dogs available for adoption. The shop will hold its official grand opening Friday from 1 to 4 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Food and door prizes will be available.