1,000 pet adoptions — and counting — in Salt Lake City

Byron and Sukie started out life the way no pet should have to — alone and unwanted. It didn’t matter that Byron is a beautiful white kitten with an adorable grey spot on his head, or that Sukie is an every-color tortoiseshell, with a striking half-orange, half-black face.

The kittens were lucky to end up at Salt Lake County Animal Services (SLCoAS), where they received the help they needed, thanks to a system of care spearheaded by Best Friends and made possible through a community-wide effort.

Byron and Sukie, with their one-of-a-kind personalities, are among hundreds of cats who need help in Utah. SLCoAS, one of the state’s largest shelters, is pivotal to the success of the Best Friends-led No-Kill Utah (NKUT) initiative, which is designed to stop the killing of animals in Utah shelters. The Salt Lake City-based organization, which has a 90 percent save rate (the percentage of pets who enter the shelter and are not killed), works with Best Friends to help ensure that kittens, puppies, dogs and cats do not die needlessly.  

Because Byron and Sukie weren’t yet big enough to be fixed, they were transferred to the Best Friends Kitten Nursery, where they received care  until reaching the all-important weight of two pounds, when they could safely undergo sterilization. Then, to ensure the best chance to find good homes, they were moved to the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center, where staff and volunteers watched and waited for a very special occasion.

Number of pets adopted in real time

Couple holding two kittens they adoptedSince the pet adoption center opened a year ago, there’s been a giant orange banner on the wall, updated daily, that displays the total number of pets adopted. When Byron and Sukie arrived, the number on the wall was 991. Everyone was looking forward to the day  when they’d get to 1,000 — not because it’s a big number, but because of the many wet noses and whiskers represented by each adoption.  Each number stood for a pet with a story and a name who, instead of meeting an unfortunate fate at the shelter, found a loving home.

On their second day at the center, Byron and Sukie were doing what kittens do — taking part in marathon play sessions, with breaks to snack and take naps with kitten roommates. Then Troy Mattinson walked in and looked carefully at all the kittens needing homes. Taken with Byron and Sukie, he made it official: he’d adopt them both, making them the 1,000th and 1,001st pets to go home from the center.

A community-wide effort to save animals

There were many stops along the way, but Byron and Sukie, like so many before them, had finally made it. They’re proof that when everyone pulls together for pets, great things are possible. “This milestone is something to celebrate with the entire community,” says Anna Gonce, executive director, Best Friends Animal Society-Utah. “Since moving to Sugar House and opening our pet adoption center, we have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from both businesses and the public.”

Saving Byron and Sukie, who went from being unwanted pets to cherished family members, exemplifies Best Friends’ commitment to Save Them All. The center’s banner first year, with adoption momentum picking up as the months go by, means that life for many Utah pets is getting a whole lot better.  

Adopt a kitten or cat from Best Friends

Photos by Erin Fell