“The Little Shelter that Could (Lake City Animal Shelter, Lake City, FL)”

Julie Morris, VP, National Shelter Outreach, ASPCA


1962. Chug, chug, chug. The animal shelter in Columbia County’s Lake City, FL, is barely worthy of the title “dog pound,” let alone shelter. The public complains about animals being shot on their doorsteps by the local dog catcher. The animals who are picked up are thrown over the fence of the pound into a small pen. Water is kept in a bucket too high for puppies and small dogs to reach. Those with the energy to leap in cannot get out; some drown.When this happens, no one is there to remove the animal and the other dogs must drink around the decaying body. Feeding detail involves throwing a bag of dog food over the fence whenever someone gets around to it.

Early 1980. Puff, puff, puff. The local citizenry has had more than enough. The final straw is an incident in which a dog is left to die in the trunk of the dog catcher’s car. A group of volunteers gets together and starts working to incorporate the Lake City Animal Shelter (LCAS) as a private humane society. Their goal is to build and operate a truly humane shelter for animals, where the health and well-being of the animals are foremost considerations. The shelter is completed in 1982 and still is in operation today. By 1989, however, it is clear that the new structure is not adequate to house the number of animals turned in. Even worse, the shelter is barely making enough money to keep the existing facility in operation.

Late 1980. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. Once she joins the board and volunteers her bookkeeping services at LCAS, Margaret Smith eliminates the word “can’t” from her vocabulary. She and her fellow board members and volunteers work full steam ahead.

Smith’s first victory is convincing the city council to let the shelter lease the adjacent land for $1 a year. She then applies for a Meachum Fund Grant from the American Humane Association. Grant writing is a learning experience for Smith, who is delighted when $4,000 is awarded. The city agrees to clear the land for construction, and the remaining $150,000 is all that is needed.

For the next couple of years, LCAS makes slow, steady progress. Smith tirelessly applies for grants, receiving more than $88,000 from trusts and foundations. The remaining funds are raised one dollar at a time from various sources, including individual donations, building brick sales, T-shirt sales, aluminum recycling, refreshment sales at festivals and rummage sales.

During this time it is not unusual for the new construction to sit idle because of lack of funding. At one particularly low point, Smith looks at the building -a skeleton of block walls and block dividers -and thinks to herself, “We have no money; I will never get this building finished. People will look at this and say it was never completed.”

Shortly thereafter, another grant is awarded, the trusses installed, the roof constructed -and just as things are looking up, the volunteer contractor leaves town. Still, Smith is determined to make it all happen. There are several more standstills, during which the building process is halted until more funds come along. One major obstacle is an unexpected assessment of a $10,000 water impact fee. That situation is overcome with help (and water) from the city and a three-year, no-interest payment plan. Eventually, it all starts to come together -another grant is awarded, an anonymous supporter donates all the needed paint, community service workers complete the painting, and the horticulture division of Lake City Community College provides the landscaping free of charge.

1997. I knew I could, I knew I could, I knew I could. After a long 2 1/2-year struggle, the new building finally is completed. The Lake City Animal Shelter is an inspiration for other small shelters around the country. The animals now receive the best of care. Smith’s one-step-at-a-time approach, combined with her unique perseverance, finally make her dream -and the dream of Lake City animal lovers’ come true.

The Lake City Animal Shelter still needs your help! Kennels on its rescue trucks must be replaced, an outside kennel for nighttime admittance built and several renovations made. Animal Watch readers are encouraged to help this worthy shelter by sending donations to Lake City Animal Shelter, c/o Margaret Smith, Shelter Manager, P.O. Box 58, Lake City, FL 32056.

Shelter staffers wishing to share news of special programs or resources with readers should contact ASPCA National Shelter Outreach, 424 E. 92nd St., New York, NY 10128-6804.
You also can write for a list of free ASPCA training workshops for animal care and control agencies.

ASPCA Animal Watch Summer 1997

© 1997 ASPCA

Courtesy of

424 East 92nd St.
New York, NY 10128-6804
(212) 876-7700



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