Michelle Dosson: Your local Utah animal shelters need you more than ever

Utah animal shelters could reach ‘no-kill’ status if people would adopt close to home.

Franciso Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune Lexi Monroe, 4, gets a lick on the nose as she and Ellie McMurrin, 8, play with Mel who is up for adoption during the Best Friends Animal Society introduction of its NKUT (No-Kill Utah) initiative, March 30, 2014.

Due to the ongoing shelter crisis taking place across the country, including right here in Utah, animal shelters remain full or over-capacity. Data collected by Best Friends Animal Society shows that while the number of pets going into shelters hasn’t drastically changed in recent months, the number of adoptions and foster homes just can’t keep pace with the animals coming in.

Simply put, pets enter shelters faster than they leave.

A 90% save rate is the accepted industry threshold for being considered a “no-kill” shelter, which doesn’t kill healthy or otherwise treatable animals to make space for other animals.

So how can we take Utah to “no-kill?” It’s simple. If every community member in the state looking to add a dog or cat to their family adopted from their local shelter, we would be able to add Utah to the growing list of no-kill states. This would be a huge step towards taking the rest of the country no-kill by 2025, which is the mission of Best Friends.

We have an incredible existing transport network through our shelter partners and NKUT (No Kill Utah) coalition partners. This network is able to move at-risk animals from over-capacity shelters in our community, to receiving animal welfare organizations on other parts of the country who are able to take them in. However, local adoptions are a critical piece of the lifesaving puzzle.

I have worked for animal shelters all over the U.S. for the past 17 years, and Utah shelters consistently have an incredible variety of available pets for adoption. With more than 60 shelters in the state, it’s easy to find your new best friend closer to home than you might think.

In addition, with Utah being one of the fastest-growing states in the country, that also means an increase in pets, and a need for members of the community to know where to go if they want to adopt, foster, volunteer, donate or are looking for their own lost pet. That’s why Best Friends Animal Society just launched the Adopt Local Challenge through April 30 to increase exposure for cats and dogs in animal shelters across the state.

You can find your next best friend in any of the shelters closest to you. That means you don’t have to drive across state lines or for hours to find an animal shelter. I can almost guarantee if you browse Petfinder you will find what you are looking for closer to home than you realize. In most cases, adopted pets are also spayed or neutered and microchipped and have received age-appropriate vaccines.

Beyond adoptions, animal shelters always need local volunteers, donors and fosters. We encourage everybody to become a true stakeholder and champion for their local shelter. For example, by fostering you help to showcase your foster pet to a larger audience, which increases the likelihood of that pet finding a home. In addition, you reap the intrinsic rewards of saving a life and all the benefits that come with having a pet, but the financial responsibilities of pet ownership are greatly minimized.

It truly takes a village, and we are imploring the community to be a part of our village.

The responsibility of saving pets is a community issue that can be solved with the involvement of everybody, including community members, government leaders, animal shelters field services and animal control, and other animal welfare groups. Through collaboration, we can provide better support for pet owners, efficiency in shelters and more lifesaving outcomes for pets.

When a community supports its shelter’s critical needs, we see dramatic results.

Michelle Dosson and Honey

Michelle Dosson is executive director at Best Friends Animal Society in Salt Lake City and Mountain West Region.