For their efforts to keep animals alive and give them the best shot at adoption, the Humane Society of Greenwood has been honored by a state animal advocacy group as their shelter of the year for 2020.

No Kill South Carolina stems from the Charleston Animal Society and sponsored by Petco, and the group advocates for policies and practices at animal shelters across the state that increase live release rates for animals and reduce instances of euthanasia.

“The no-kill term, there are different definitions. There are some organizations that will say something like no kill at all, or some that will say that 10% of the animals coming into the shelter can be euthanized, and they don’t pay attention to the reason,” said Becca Boronat, No Kill S.C.’s project manager. “For us, it’s that no healthy animals end up being euthanized.”

Euthanasia still has its place, she said, as a merciful procedure for animals suffering from injuries or ailments that can’t be treated without significant loss of quality of life. That quality of life, for the local humane society, has been priority number one lately.

“We want to provide a quality of life that keeps them adoptable, so we can find them forever homes,” said Constance Mawyer, HSOG’s interim executive director. “The collaboration between shelters that we establish through No Kill S.C., that’s a life-saving strategy.”

The focus, Mawyer said, has been on maintaining the balance of their capacity of care. Instead of taking in any animal dropped off at the shelter and possibly stretching their employee and volunteer resources thin and lowering the quality of life for animals, the shelter has implemented managed intake policies. When animals come in while the shelter is near full, there are other rescue agencies HSOG has built relationships with that can take them temporarily, to avoid undue stress on the local facility.

When the Humane Society moved into its current shelter, they were working with No Kill S.C. to develop policies and programs that would lend itself to fewer avoidable deaths and more happy pets adopted to new homes. As the local Humane Society underwent multiple leadership changes, staff were still working to implement new policies and procedures and providing the community with new services.

It’s resulted in a live release rate of about 95%, Mawyer said.

“With all the challenges that they’ve had, including COVID as we’ve all faced, they did an amazing job partnering and working with the county to make sure that they could return to owners faster and could manage their intake of cats,” Boronat said of HSOG. “With them, it was about trying new things they had never tried before.”

Mawyer said the Humane Society has maintained a great relationship with the county animal shelter and local animal control officials, which has helped every step along the way. Looking forward to the rest of 2021, she said she’s eager to develop more programs and ways to make HSOG a resource for the community.

“Once we got here, it has been our driving force to become what Greenwood County Council and the people said they wanted, and to be saving lives,” Mawyer said. “We believe in the no-kill foundation and their strategies.”

Along with No Kill S.C. making HSOG their shelter of 2020, the shelter will be featured in a magazine from the Charleston Animal Society. Amaryllis Turman, chairwoman of HSOG’s board of directors, said she was excited about the future of the organization and grateful for the support from volunteers and Greenwood County through this ongoing effort.

“I feel like we’ve got some forward momentum, and I’m very appreciative that we’re getting recognized,” she said. “We think we’re doing good work and making good progress, but it’s always nice to get that recognition from someone that’s very objective and comparing us with organizations throughout the state.”

Contact staff writer Damian Dominguez at 864-634-7548 or follow on Twitter @IJDDOMINGUEZ.