P.A.W.S. Center set to be built at the Aiken County Animal Center

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May 28—The Aiken County Animal Shelter has plans to expand.

A new building will be constructed on the facility's property at 333 Wire Road in Aiken.

The structure will be known as the P.A.W.S. Center.

P.A.W.S. stands for Prime learning, Adoption, Wellness and Socialization.

Friends of the Animal Shelter President Jennifer Miller said the 1,340-square-foot building is the No. 1 wish on the animal shelter's wish list.

"It's something that has been needed for a long time," she added.

The structure will have two meet-and-greet rooms. Each will provide a quiet, controlled environment where a prospective adopter can get to know a shelter dog better.

Currently, Miller said, such interactions often take place outside, where a dog can become distracted and not pay attention to its prospective adopter at first.

In addition, the building will have a larger room for training and socializing dogs at the shelter.

That room also will be a place where educational events for school groups, community organizations, Junior FOTAS members and others can be held.

Training sessions for shelter staff, shelter volunteers and animal control officers will be conducted there as well.

Another purpose of the room will be to provide an area where dog owners can introduce their animals to prospective canine adoptees to see if the dogs get along.

Also in the building will be a room for cats that are available for adoption. They will be able to roam freely, and will have access to a screened-in outdoor area or "catio," Miller said.

Originally, the estimated cost of the building was $260,000.

The seed money for the FOTAS project came from two legacy donations. The organization is "in the final stages" of raising the rest of that amount, Miller said.

But because of price increases for construction materials during the COVID-19 pandemic, the cost of the building "has increased substantially" and now is expected to be $400,000, Miller said.

FOTAS has asked the county to pay the additional $140,000 needed.

"We hope to break ground before the end of the year," Miller said.

The architecture firm of McMillan Pazdan Smith designed the building, and FOTAS has paid for that already.

Haas & Hilderbrand Inc. did the civil engineering work for free.

The structure will be "a game changer for the animal shelter, the animals and the community," Miller said. "It will save the county and taxpayers money because it will help reduce the length of stays for animals by increasing adoption opportunities."

In 2020, the shelter received 4,410 animals and 4,151, or 94.13% were saved, according to statistics provided by Miller.

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