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Pet adoption center may be coming to The Gateway

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(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) John Coulter, adoption and outreach coordinator for the Salt Lake County Animal Shelter, shows a dog available for adoption.

By Mike Gorrell

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Apr 23 2013 07:22PM
Updated Apr 24, 2013 01:47PM

The Gateway shopping district may be adding another dimension to the idea of impulse buying.

How about buying a dog or cat on the next trip to the mall?

Salt Lake County Animal Services is in discussions with owners of The Gateway about opening a pet adoption center at the downtown Salt Lake City mall, a location likely to increase exposure to more potential buyers and to advance the agency’s goal of running a no-kill shelter.

"Gateway is an ideal location," Animal Services Director April Harris told the County Council on Tuesday. "It has a built-in audience with all of the housing [there] and more housing going up in surrounding areas. This will be reaching a demographic that Animal Services is not currently serving."

Best of all, it would be free.

The mall’s owners have offered the county free rent this year on a 4,500-square-foot unit, Harris said, on the second floor of the open-air mall, next to Sanctuary Day Spa, overlooking the Olympic fountain.

Depending how things go this year, she said in her executive summary to the council, next year’s lease could be free again or quite low cost. The deal lets the pet adoption center take advantage of Gateway’s advertising campaigns and to use Union Pacific Depot and public spaces — such as the fountain area — for free.

The unit’s windows also are shaded, encouraging displays, Harris noted. So passers-by can wonder "how much is that doggy in the window?"

Why would mall owners be so magnanimous?

Harris offered a couple of thoughts. For one, she said, "they’ll get a lot of foot traffic. This is really a demographic no mall in Utah is really grabbing. Seventy percent of Utahns have pets."

But the company’s heart is there along with its business interests, she added. "They like the entire concept of saving animals’ lives."

Scott Bennett, general manager at The Gateway, cautioned that "no agreements or plans have been finalized," but acknowledged that operators are "exploring the possibility of hosting a temporary animal adoption center at The Gateway." The mall, he added, "has a long tradition of supporting local nonprofit groups and community organizations."

An adoption center is different than a shelter. Animals cannot be dropped off there and strays will not be held there, Harris said. "[It] will only have adoptable animals."

County Council members — all have dogs, some have cats, too — embraced the concept after a county financial team found that Animal Services’ profit-making expectations at the site were reasonable. The adoption center is budgeting $53,000 from pet sales the rest of this year, then $90,000 all of next year, along with $118,000 in product sales.

The council released $157,000 to cover transition costs and also approved a revised adoption fee schedule, going to a rate of $50 for cats, $100 for large dogs and $150 for small dogs and puppies.

mikeg@sltrib.com

Twitter: @sltribmikeg

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