Dogs allowed and encouraged: SPCA opens paw-friendly space in Aiken

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Jun. 16—Employees and boosters of the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare celebrated completion of a major project June 15, with the opening of Paws 'n Play Recreation Yard.

The project, orchestrated by fundraising leader MaryAnn Wennemer, led to creation of a grassy, fenced-in, paw-friendly area where dogs at the center can run, sniff, relax and improve their suitability for adoption.

"This actually started as an idea last August, with some staff members and some volunteers, because we recognized that even though the dogs were getting walked, they were getting some social time in their kennels, they really, really needed a good outdoor space," Wennemer said.

The fenced space used earlier was not particularly safe and was not appropriate for those dogs who could dig or leap their way out. Raffles and golf tournaments helped pave the way for improvements.

The result, in terms of dogs, is "a happy place for them," she said. "We want to give these dogs the best forever homes we can, and make sure that they can adjust and be really good, good pets in their forever home. It has helped us tremendously."

Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon also was part of the gathering, expressing thanks for those who made the milestone possible.

"It really makes our city better," he said.

Barbara Nelson, chairman emeritus of the facility's board of directors, described the new creation as "a place where dogs can be dogs."

Michelle Williams, the facility's canine behaviorist, talked about the progress on display.

"We used to have to do all of our playing on concrete, so we would get a lot (of dogs) that ended up with ripped pads and things like that," Williams said. "This, they can come out and actually just be able to run like they would in a home; and also, it's a great evaluation tool, to see how they ... do with other dogs."

Features include a splash pad (as seasons may permit), baby pools (served by new plumbing), agility equipment, a ball pit and tables to be used to teach dogs how to stay in place. Acreage is about half the size of a football field.

Among the project's major sponsors were such organizations and individuals as Designer Builders, Woodside Development, Oriental Rug Specialist, Cork and Cap, Anita Trotter-Cox, Ginny Kenney, Susan Birt, Mary Shultz, Rob Rehnlund, Diana Peters and MaryAnne Ebert. Dozens of other organizations and individuals were also on board.