Saving lives in Utah's second-largest city

In 2012, West Valley City Animal Services in Utah was reeling from a series of bad run-ins with the Utah press. The agency was mired in controversy, and there was a loud public call for change and a serious commitment to the animals. An enterprising city councilman said enough is enough, and set forth a proclamation to take the city to no-kill. West Valley City Animal Services sat down with Best Friends, and a groundbreaking public/private partnership was cemented.

Best Friends committed enough resources to do this correctly, and we began to lay the groundwork for what would be an unprecedented level of lifesaving for the city, the second-largest city in the state. We advised them to expand their hours of operation for adoptions. (It’s hard to send pets home if the doors are closed!) That was part of a larger marketing push, asking the public to choose adoption. As we knew they would, they responded in droves.

We helped implement a trap/neuter/return (TNR) program for cats. This simple program of fixing cats who come into the shelter and returning them to their community colony dropped the number of cats being killed immediately. The task of fixing them also helped prevent more births and, therefore, led to fewer cats who need help.

In 2013, the WVC save rate rose to over 95 percent in May and dipped to 79 percent in July, but for the year, the annual save rate came to 89.7 percent, just 3/10 of one percent shy of the 90 percent no-kill threshold. All in all, a great year and a complete sea-change for this important Utah city.

This rapid success is really only the beginning, and we’re not stopping now. There’s more work to be done, and more lives to be saved! One of the things we’re most excited about, and something that will greatly benefit West Valley City, is the expansion of our kitten nursery program. Launched in 2013, the nursery, staffed by an army of passionate kitten caregivers, provides round-the-clock care in the busiest months of the year. Our goal for 2014 is 1,200 kittens saved in the Salt Lake Valley. It’s just one of the ways we’re leading Utah toward being a no-kill state.

We are also now showcasing adoptable dogs and cats from the West Valley shelter at our Pet Adoption Center. Two days a week, we bring animals from the shelter to this friendly retail environment so that they have a better chance of being seen and adopted.

Over the next two years, we will continue to partner with the shelter to introduce more programs that will enable them to sustain their no-kill commitment. We are discussing building out more robust volunteer, foster and rescue programs, as well as creating outreach and advocacy programs for pit bull terriers.

Every day, it’s becoming clearer that, together, we can Save Them All.

Gregory Castle