Dede Minardi said there is a significant need for people to help care for abandoned animals, either through fostering or adopting.
"This year is ridiculous. There's just too many animals and not enough people," she said.
Minardi who works with CAWS, Community Animal Welfare Society, thinks the issue stemmed from the COVID-19 pandemic and an increase in people with pets who ended up not being able to care for them long-term. She said people will just leave animals — either outdoors or in — as they move out. A lot of the animals also need medical attention. She said they are doing the best they can right now with the resources they have.
On Saturday, CAWS and other organizations gathered at Wheeler Historic Farm in Murray for Petapalooza, where the goal was to adopt 150 pets into homes and have some fun with their pets.
Minardi said CAWS places about 1,300 cats and dogs with adopting families each year. She said they are the oldest and largest foster-based rescue in the state and help pets primarily in Salt Lake Valley. They have about 50 families caring for cats and more caring for dogs.
She encouraged people to adopt instead of buying pets, pointing out that any animal someone wants likely can be found in a shelter and will come already spayed or neutered and vaccinated, saving a future owner even more money. She also said when adopting from a rescue, there is more information available about how the animal acts in a home so a future pet owner can be better informed.
Minardi cares for cats because she says they provide companionship and are easy to care for, especially compared to dogs. She did say people should get their cats spayed or neutered, which helps their health and the environment in addition to preventing an increase in stray cats.
CAWS always needs volunteers to foster pets, Minardi said. Fostering helps two animals, she said, bringing one into a home and another into its spot in the shelter, and it increases the chances of the animal being seen and adopted. It's also a good way to try out having a pet before buying it.
Callista Pearson with Salt Lake County Animal Services said this is the seventh time they held a Petapalooza, but that the turnout this time was larger than any other year.
Pearson said that during the pandemic a lot of pets got into homes, which at the time was good. However, because it was during a time period when veterinarian offices and pet trainers had limited availability or were closed, most of those pets did not get spayed or neutered or trained, leading to even more problems with the pets they currently have in the shelter.
She said they refer to some dogs as "COVID puppies," which are now grown dogs who have behavioral issues and still need training.
One thing that is good about the Petapalooza event is people usually come with their dogs, which is important. Pearson says if you are going to adopt, the new pet has to meet other pets in the household first to make sure they will get along.
Salt Lake County Animal Services was hoping to help 150 pets find owners during Saturday's event, and at two hours in they had already facilitated adoptions for about 60 pets. Pearson said this event brings the public and pets together with shelters and rescues in a more positive environment.
West Valley Animal Services brought some pets, along with 12 rescue organizations, like CAWS, which house pets with foster volunteers.
Pearson said this year the number of pets that are coming in needing to be adopted has not slowed down, although it typically does by this time of year.
"Right now ... all the rescues are full," she said. "There's just tons of animals."
She said people who can't take care of their pets call daily, but there's just no room.
"For us, at our shelter, every animal going out, we have at least one more animal coming in," Pearson said. "This will definitely help a lot."
Pearson acknowledged times are tough and she understands caring for people should come first. To help families who are struggling to care for their pets, they do provide pet food once a month. There is also a foster care program for people who are between being homeless and having a home to give their pet a place to stay.