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A few of the many 'Have a Heart, Save a Life' volunteers at their new sign outside the Baldwin County Animal Control office.

For the past six months, Valerie Buckley has been gearing her efforts toward revamping the exterior and interior of the Baldwin County Animal Control office while decreasing the number of animals euthanized through the “Have a Heart, Save a Life” (HAHSAL) adoption project.

“The euthanasia rate in Baldwin County dramatically reduced from 40 to 80 a month to now about 20 a month,” the BCAC volunteer and HAHSAL coordinator said. “We shuck and jive behind the scenes to keep our track record up. We have made a difference and that makes me feel better because it’s all worth it.”

Buckley also said more than 350 animals have been saved since the project kicked off in January, but the physical building still needs some upgrades in order to draw in the community.

“We’re probably about halfway there because it really takes a year to get everything done. When my 501(c) kicks in, it will allow me to get grants and a lot more power to open up the doors,” she said.

In the mean time, Buckley is patiently waiting to hopefully receive the top 10 big ticket items on her wish-list from Lowe’s.

“The Lowe’s manager did a walk through and he asked me to give him a wish-list. Now I’m waiting for corporate to come through with a check to help renovate the porch, kitchen and flooring,” she said. “The list includes a wrap-around porch for the outside, roof over the outside kennels, a complete redo of the kitchen cupboards and flooring throughout the shelter, several new interior window doors and a dozen fans throughout the dog kennel area.”

Many volunteers within the community took action and became involved with HAHSAL project, including John Milledge Academy and Georgia College & State University students, Tractor Supply, Chik-fil-A, Captain D’s Seafood, Hattaway Screen Printing, Apparel Ink, Body Plex, Louie Herron Toyota of Milledgeville and many more.

“The front office has been painted and opened up with a small kitchen area, the cat room is accessible from the front office with a screened country door, the cats now have a cat room with ceiling fans with lights and cat climbers, the doggie doors have been replaced, the bathroom has been completely redone with a towel rack, medicine cabinet and shower head to be able to bath the dogs and a Kiddie Pool is setup outside for the dogs to go swimming,” Buckley said of the completed renovations. “We’re waiting for the dishwasher to be installed and concrete and roofs to be placed over the kennels outside.”

Buckley also hopes to tweak the process of transporting animals in and out of the shelter.

“I’m looking for an air conditioned vehicle to transport the animals in — a Paws and Claws on wheels,” she said. “I’m not comfortable with just knowing that the shelter is changing; I want people to know that they have access to the animals outside the shelter, too. I’ll bring them around, whatever it takes.”

Her initial goal was to have the remodeling project completed by her birthday in March.

“We’re making progress and it’s taking longer than I hoped, but I understand because we have to wait for everything to be approved. I’ll aim for my birthday next year,” Buckley said. “Our needs are many, but we are very pleased with the overwhelming response and donations from people. Our goal is to give animals a home so we will continue showing animals to make sure we give them a good home.”

HAHSAL will showcase a few of the shelter’s dogs and cats at Bruster’s Real Ice Cream at 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, June 26.

“The manager of Bruster’s was kind enough to help us out ... in helping the animals get exposure ... so please come out and enjoy ice-cream treats for dogs and meet our group,” Buckley said.

Another program, Sponsor a Space, has been recently approved by Assistant County Manager Ralph McMullen, and eight community supporters have taken part.

“For $150, you get a [HAHSAL] t-shirt, a six-inch engraved dog bone with your name and year, which is placed in the front office, and a Kuranda bed in a mural-painted kennel,” Buckley said. “If anyone is interested in adopting a space, it’s also one way to help us out.”

To donate funds, expertise or supplies, including a washer, dryer, fencing, paper towels, kitty litter, cat food, dog food or dog bowls, call Buckley at (478) 232-8155 or e-mail vbuckley@wildblue.net.

“It’s a shame that these are good animals that would make terrific pets, and I find it extremely heart-breaking to find someone’s pet in the shelter. We have to put them down in a short amount of time and it doesn’t seem fair,” she said. “It’s up to me to save their lives, and everybody in the community if they can. I know I can’t save every animal in the county, but I can give it the best shot I got.”

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