West Valley City Animal Shelter, a municipal shelter in Utah, recently put out a public plea on social media detailing its overcrowded numbers while also encouraging locals to adopt, volunteer and spread the word.

“We need help. We are desperate,” the June 7 post on the shelter’s Instagram page reads. “We are at critical numbers. Animals are starting to be put in wire crates.”

“In order to remain a no-kill shelter, we need our community to help,” the post reads.

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Hannah Fine, a volunteer who runs West Valley City Animal Shelter’s Instagram page, posts daily photos of the dogs at the shelter who need homes, along with the pets’ names and information.

Seeing how many animals were filling up the shelter, Fine posted the announcement to Instagram in hopes of reaching a larger audience and raising awareness.

“We want to remain no-kill and that was the main reason for that reach out,” Fine said in an interview with the Deseret News.

“If we want to remain no-kill status, we need people to step up and come adopt, have rescues come pull animals, come volunteer and spread the word ... because so many hard decisions have to start to be made if they’re not clearing out fast enough.”

Stoney, a 10-week-old kitten, climbs on Priscila Gutierrez, West Valley City Animal Shelter animal care shelter technician, at the West Valley City Animal Shelter in West Valley City on Wednesday, June 21, 2023. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Shelter stress

Fine also helps with adoptions and keeping the dogs as active and stimulated as possible.

“We have 50 dog kennels and a lot of them are having to be split in half because we are so overcapacity,” Fine said. “And with so many animals in the same room ... if one’s barking, they’re all barking, and it can be such a stressful environment for them.”

Salt Lake County Animal Services, a neighboring municipal shelter in the Salt Lake Valley, is also struggling with overcapacity numbers, according to Jami Johanson, the shelter’s development coordinator.

“As of yesterday [June 17], we had 88 dogs which 34 are currently available for adoption. We have 82 regular dog kennels,” Johanson told the Deseret News. Johanson has also witnessed the effect that stress can have on the animals, especially dogs.

“Some dogs will shut down, be less active, hide in the back of their kennel and their appetite may even go down,” Johanson said. “Some dogs can start behaving badly in their kennels as a way to deal with stress and we always say do not judge a shelter dog by their kennel behavior. Stress may also affect a shelter dog’s physical health.”

Virtually all of the animals West Valley City and Salt Lake County Animal Services take in are strays or lost pets, and Fine highlighted the importance of checking shelters when your pet goes missing and being willing to pick them up if they end up at a shelter.

“Sometimes we’ll contact the owners that are on the microchip and they just will never come and pick them up,” Fine said. “Knowing that they have a home, but they’re not being picked up and not being claimed is just so heartbreaking.” Fine also said that these cases take up a lot of space in addition to pets that don’t have a home.

West Valley City Animal Shelter

Adoption events and specials

In hopes of adopting out as many of the animals in its care as possible, West Valley City Animal Shelter is hosting an on-site “Shelter Saturday” event on Saturday, June 24, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Shelter Saturday’s goal is to give folks a chance to meet adoptable pets on a weekend, as the shelter is typically only open to the public Monday through Friday — during hours when many nearby residents work.

“People, especially those who work during the week and aren’t able to make it during our regular adoption hours, they’re able to come in on Saturday,” Fine said. “It’s so much easier for people to adopt on weekends.”

“We’re trying to think of out of the box ways where we can get more animals adopted,” said Fine.

“You can bring your current pets,” she said. “We recommend, if you have another dog, to bring your dog so that we can make sure everyone gets along.”

West Valley City Animal Shelter also has a June adoption special, where prospective adopters can name their own adoption price or donate essential items — such as pet food, leashes, collars and toys — in place of a fee.

Salt Lake County Animal Services is also offering free adoptions for the remainder of June, excluding VIP pets.

Barbara meets potential adopters Nehemiah Newton and Ellie Mahoney, who plan to rename her Croissant, during a meet-and-greet at the West Valley City Animal Shelter in West Valley City on Wednesday, June 21, 2023. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Volunteering, fostering and donating

If you’re not in the position to adopt but want to help, shelters are in desperate need of assistance as well.

“If you can’t adopt, you can always foster a shelter pet!” Johanson says. “We are always looking for volunteers and have many volunteer opportunities at Salt Lake County Animal Services. We appreciate any and all donations, please visit our website for different ways to donate.”

At West Valley Animal Shelter, volunteers are mainly tasked with walking dogs, snuggling kitties and providing bunnies with some sort of enrichment or stimulation, according to Fine. Once volunteers complete an orientation, they’ll be all set to spend time with the animals.

“We just need volunteers that are willing to do some fun things that will get the dogs out more and get the animals out more so they become more adoptable,” she said.

“It’s so hard because everyone, everywhere is so full,” Fine says. “I’m hoping that even if [people] are not close to West Valley ... this will maybe ignite them to help out their shelter that’s close to them.”