Our History

“If only the waifs, the strays, the sick, the abused would be sure to get entrance to the home, and anybody could feel at liberty to bring in a starved or ill-treated animal and have it cared for without pay, my object would be obtained.”

When Ellen Gifford penned these words in 1884, she created a powerful mission and established a legacy of kindness and compassion that has endured to today.

The Ellen M. Gifford Sheltering Home was founded on land belonging to Captain Nathan Appleton, with an initial $25,000 donation from Ellen Gifford. Captain Appleton, a visionary in his time, felt that animals “had a right to their lives and pursuit of happiness”.1

The original shelter was cageless and there was no routine euthanasia. Since much of Brighton was farm land in those days, animals ranged from goats and bulls to dogs and cats. In 1900, Helen M. Winslow describes the original cat building as a house with shelves used as “bunk beds”. Bedding consisted of clean hay. Cooked meat and fish and water were served at feeding stations.

As the character of the Brighton neighborhood changed over the years, so did the shelter. Much of the original land was sold and the shelter eventually housed only cats. In 2009, the original shelter was replaced by a new building.


Above: Scenes from the Ellen M. Gifford Home for Animals, the largest home for animals in the United States. Fox Movietone News Story, November 7, 1929. (Courtesy of University of South Carolina Libraries Moving Image Research Collections)

Today, Gifford Cat Shelter continues to uphold Mrs. Gifford’s original intention. More than 75% of the cats we take in have been rescued from homelessness, hoarders or abandonment. Most of the cats are hungry and frightened. We are committed to providing each cat with safety, food, veterinary care, and lots of love until we find a permanent home for him/her. Gifford Cat Shelter maintains a standard of excellence in caring for and finding permanent homes for cats and the Shelter is an asset to our community.

1. “Concerning Cats” by Helen M. Winslow, published in 1900.

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