Grown from Sue Henninger’s backyard in 1971, the Animal Aid Society, a private no-kill organization in Hampton, has been sheltering and placing dogs with new families for nearly 50 years.
One of three in the state with an indoor/outdoor kettle run setup, Sharon Bilyi, president of the Animal Aid Society, said she found being able to provide their dogs with unrestricted access to fresh air attractive — but it’s this same unique feature that has caused the shelter’s need for nearly $2 million in renovations.
“One of the things that has triggered the compliance issue is the law changes in 2016… the new regulation requires enclosures for dogs have an impervious surface that can be sanitized,” she said. “The outdoor portion of the dog kennels is dirt so we’re not in compliance under that particular code.”
Bilyi said as a private shelter, the Animal Aid Society doesn’t receive city or state funding but since last year, has started paying on fines as a result of the facility’s non-compliance.
“[The city and state] have been very patient with us and are working with us but it gets to a point where the fines have to be assessed and they accrue every time we’re out of compliance,” she said.
Though they’re not in jeopardy of shutting down their operation anytime soon, to continue supporting the now seven acres and 41 kennels, the team has kicked off a campaign to rebuild starting with a “Giving Tuesday” fundraiser happening on Facebook until 8 a.m. on Dec. 3 when the social media company has vowed to match donations dollar-for-dollar and on a first-come, first-serve basis, up to $7 million.
In anticipation the Animal Aid Society won’t be the first in line to benefit from a Facebook payout, Bilyi said they’re still looking for private donors and businesses to match their donations and will also have adoptable dogs staged at Inland Reef in Virginia Beach this Saturday for additional fundraising.
With more than 100 volunteers, Bilyi said the Animal Aid Society also receives transfers from kill organizations across the state while also supporting other local nonprofits and accepting stray dogs and owner surrenders.
“These dogs don’t have a voice and Animal Aid Society is their voice…if we no longer exist, not only will it affect the dogs in our care but also dogs at other organizations as well,” said Kelly Loer, Animal Aid Society’s social media manager.
The project is a long-term marathon, Bilyi said, they’re not expecting to raise the money needed to rebuild the shelter overnight, but this is where they start.
“This has given us the opportunity to really look and plan on building the facility of our future and doing it in a way that is going to provide a safe haven for the homeless dogs in our care for the next 50 years,” she said.