Dogs, cats and lizards pose for their close-ups in pet portrait fundraiser

A pet portrait organization raised over $1,700 for the Community Animal Welfare Society.

A squeaky toy captivated the attention of a black and brown longhaired chihuahua mix on Saturday as he was held in the air by his owner, adorned with a floral necklace in front of a mustard backdrop.

Just as the dog moved his eyes towards the photographer — and the toy held over her shoulder — a quick snap captured Kenji’s profile in all its glory.

Pets of all shapes and sizes showed up to get professional headshots taken for $35 at the first Pawtraits Utah animal fundraiser on Saturday. The organization’s first pet portrait event in Salt Lake City raised $1,720 for the Community Animal Welfare Society (CAWS), and with the success of this event, they hope to hold more.

(Amber Dwyer | Pawtraits Utah) A cat with a flower necklace poses for a photo at the Pawtraits Utah fundraiser in the Maven District on July 31.

Pawtraits 4 a Cause started in Houston, Texas, and has raised over $12,000 for local shelters, according to the organization’s Facebook page. It was started by Nadine Berns, a photographer in the Houston area, who is a good friend of Jessica Davies, the owner of Passion Flour, a bakery in the Maven District that hosted Saturday’s event, and Amber Dwyer, who photographed the event.

Before the event, Dwyer was hoping at least 10 people would come and that they would raise at least $1,000 for the charity. An hour into the event they had 15 people on the waiting list for photos, with more on the way.

The clientele for Saturday’s event was mostly dogs, with a few kittens, a gecko and a bearded dragon all attending for their close-up.

“It’s been wonderful,” Dwyer said at the event. “It was just so unexpected and so wonderful… I mean, the more pets the better.”

(Amber Dwyer | Pawtraits Utah) A dog with a flower crown poses for a photo at the Pawtraits Utah fundraiser in the Maven District on July 31.

Passion Flour made dog treats, goody bags and snacks for the owners who stopped by to get their pet’s photo taken.

“Three things that we love [made us want to attend], which is CAWS, which is where we got her from [two weeks ago],” said Elena Clackner, who brought her dog Bonnie, a 5-year-old Lab/Catahoula mix, to the event. “Plus these portraits are really cute, and we love the [nearby] ice cream store.”

Joe Bateman, who brought Kenji to get his photo taken at the event, also came to support the animal charity — with the added bonus of a keepsake of his furry friend.

“I mean, I take a lot of photos of him, but I wanted a professional to do it,” Bateman said. “But also, they’re donating money to CAWS which is a great rescue. I think rescues could use a lot of work, you know, and a lot of money.”

More pet portrait opportunities will hopefully be planned around the holidays, Dwyer said, trading the summer flower crowns for cranberries, pinecones and snow in the winter.

“We do hope to hold future events,” Dwyer said. “We’ll be using different backdrops in the events, so there will be a different feel to them. And hopefully in the future, we’ll have more themed ones. It went well [on Saturday,] we’re hopeful that we’ll be doing other fun ones in the future as well.”

(Amber Dwyer | Pawtraits Utah) Two dogs are held up for a photo at the Pawtraits Utah fundraiser in the Maven District on July 31.