Utah shelters killed thousands of animals in recent years. A St. George shelter is proud of being ‘no-kill.’

Gov. Spencer Cox recently designated 2024 as “No-Kill Shelter Year” in the state.

(Providing Animals With Support) Providing Animals With Support (PAWS) shelter in St. George.

St. George • If the statewide effort to make Utah the first no-kill state in the West and the largest in the nation is to be successful, animal shelters and rescue operations must play a pivotal role.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox recently designated 2024 as “No-Kill Shelter Year” in the state. While that focused fresh attention on the 2,100 dogs and cats that have been euthanized at Utah shelters over the past several years, the governor’s declaration is nothing new to staff and volunteers at southern Utah’s largest animal rescue at 1125 W. 1130 North in St. George.

PAWS a leader in ‘no-kill’ fight

Providing Animals With Support — PAWS for short — has been a leader in the fight against euthanasia for more than two decades. The nonprofit was started in 2002 by five St. George women who sought to rescue and find homes for cats and dogs that were scheduled to be euthanized because of overcrowding at local shelters.

When the founders had more animals than places to house them, they rented a building to rescue and house the pets. From those modest beginnings, PAWS now leases two large buildings, one for dogs and the other for cats.

Lulu Hart, the animal-rescue manager at PAWS, said the center’s capacity to care for animals has grown right along with its ability to house them. As the only salaried staff member, Hart oversees roughly 150 volunteers who tend to the needs of as many as 40 dogs and 150 cats.

All told, PAWS has rescued more than 22,000 canines and felines. Over the past two months alone, staff members have placed 86 pets with individual owners and families, all of whom have been carefully screened to ensure they will make good owners and provide their new family members with a great home.

“PAWS has a great reputation because people there really love the pets and do everything for them,” said Washington City resident Shelly Rodriquez, who has shopped at PAWS Thrift Store near Costco, which helps fund the nonprofit’s animal-rescue operations.

Housing and finding homes is not cheap. All the animals PAWS accepts are screened by medical professionals, dewormed, spayed and neutered, vaccinated and microchipped. Hart said volunteer staff also socialize, train and exercise the animals. Other volunteers foster cats and dogs in their homes until they are old or well enough to be placed in the PAWS facility, a practice that helps alleviate overcrowding.

“We spend anywhere from a minimum of $400 to thousands of dollars on an animal,” said Hart, adding the center relies on “the kindness of good-hearted humans” who make generous donations or volunteer their time to care for the animals.

Hart said it is hard to overstate the importance of PAWS volunteers who come to the center each day to “scoop poop,” dispense medicine, bathe, train, groom and take the animals on walks or hikes. They also often shuttle the animals to and from visits with the veterinarians.

PAWS stars: Indigo and Kassidy

As important a role as volunteers play in PAWS’ success, the animals are still the star of the show. One of them is Indigo, a young cat that acts like a queen, enjoys her alone time away from other felines and holds court in her very own room.

“She is absolutely the best,” Hart said. “She’s sweet, spicy and independent and wants to be an only cat. She is gorgeous.”

One star among many of Indigo’s canine counterparts is Kassidy, an eight-month-old silver Labrador Chesapeake retriever mix who was rescued with her brother, Butch, from a kill shelter in Sanpete County.

“There’s absolutely no reason for these two beautiful dogs to be in a shelter or rescue,” said Hart, adding Kassidy is beautiful and easily trained.

Currently, 46 out of the state’s 58 shelters have achieved no-kill status, which means they have saved at least 90% of the animals admitted each year. PAWS helps cut down on the number of animals euthanized by taking in dogs and cats from shelters all over southern Utah and other parts of Utah that no longer have room to house them.

According to the Best Friends Animal Society, nearly 52,000 cats and dogs were recently crammed into already cramped Utah animal shelters. Read more here to learn more about the magnitude of the animal overcrowding that is plaguing the state’s shelters and the efforts underway to ease the problem.

To find out more about PAWS, pet adoption and volunteer opportunities, call (435) 688-9748.