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When the new executive director of the Humane Society of Utah bought his female Siberian Husky three years ago, it never occurred to him to have her spayed.

But once he saw the many dogs that fill the pens at the society's shelter in West Valley City during his first day on the job, Gene Baierschmidt made an appointment to have "Nanook" sterilized.He blamed his own ignorance of what he termed the surprising number of animals brought to the shelter that must be put to sleep because there aren't enough homes for them.

Last year alone, he said, almost 22,000 animals were brought to the shelter. Homes were found for just under 3,000 of them. The rest were killed after 72 hours.

"Animals are living things that have to be respected and taken care of," Baierschmidt told Deseret News staff writer Lisa Riley Roche. "They are not property that can be discarded."

As head of the society, Baierschmidt hopes to convince other pet owners to spay or neuter their animals much sooner than he did to help curb unwanted litters.

He also wants would-be pet owners to check the society's shelter for the animal of their choice before making a purchase from a breeder or pet store. Baierschmidt said that had he known of the wide variety of animals available, often including purebreds, he would not have bought a dog from a breeder.

A self-proclaimed "outsider" to animal advocacy, Baierschmidt said he believes his understanding of how a typical pet owner thinks will help him design campaigns that will help others see how serious the problem of pet overpopulation is.

No doubt, his background in fund raising will also help. Baierschmidt graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor's degree in public relations and from the University of Utah with a master's degree in mass communications.