SALT LAKE CITY — There are a lot of animal-lovers in Utah, but, still, tens of thousands of would-be pets sit in shelters and foster homes throughout the state.
"It's a great opportunity to see homeless pets in an inviting environment, someplace you might already be going anyway," said Lawrence Nicolas, regional engagement manager for Best Friends Animal Society of Utah. "More visibility for homeless pets is always a good thing."
The exposure helps, as dozens of the 102 dogs and cats made available at the inaugural event were introduced to their new human owners on Saturday.
"The most rewarding part of it all is finding the perfect family for a dog or a perfect dog for a family," said Mandy Moody, adoption coordinator with Rescue Rovers, a local canine foster organization. Moody has fostered 120 dogs of all breeds and sizes in the last three years and says each one has a special place in her heart.
"It's always hard to see them go," she said. "But we have to keep our eye on the prize, which is, we can't save another until this one is adopted."
Utah animal activists have a goal of achieving no-kill status (in which fewer than 10 percent of homeless animals are euthanized) by 2019. The state hovers close to 90 percent, but there are more than 32,000 cats and dogs without homes, according to Best Friends.
Adam Mendez has been searching for the perfect pup, no specific breed, and while he didn't find it Saturday, he plans to scour the web in the meantime and return to the monthly adoptions until he does.
"It's a great way to see and interact with a bunch of animals at the same time," he said. "I know he/she is out there."
Each month, No Kill Utah will include different animal rescue operations, hoping to increase the number of adoptions.
Moody, who owns two dogs, said she has always loved "man's best friend," but also loves to keep them out of shelters.
Having them in families, she said, helps them learn to live in a home and to be a pet. Many shelter animals are missing out socially, especially lacking opportunities to interact with humans. Foster programs fill those needs and help prepare animals for adoption.
"It takes a lot of time and a lot of patience to foster a pet," Moody said. "It's kind of like a halfway house for an animal, to give them stability and allow them to integrate in a not-too-stressful environment."
The benefit is that the foster owners, who are volunteers, get to know the animals somewhat and are able to pass along tips and clues related to its behavior to new owners.
"We know them," Moody said, adding that living with a dog, even for a short time, helps her understand it better. "We know what kind of home and family it might be good with and can suggest helps to make the transition easier on the new owners."
"It's an easy way to make a big difference," she said.
Nicolas said adoption events, bringing many homeless animals together in one place, are often successful in Utah, which is what prompted the monthly "Save Them All Saturdays."
"It's another place, another venue to help homeless animals find their forever homes," he said.
For more information, visit utah.bestfriends.org.