What’s in a name? Pet Resource Center

Pet resource center in murray
Front entrance view to the Pet Resource Center at the Humane Society of Utah.

You may have (or may not) have noticed that we no longer refer to ourselves as an “animal shelter” in our recent communications and are now calling ourselves a “Pet Resource Center.” In this three-part blog series, we’ll explain why.

In the last few years, the “Pet Resource Center” model has become widely adopted by animal welfare leaders across the country to improve upon the traditional animal sheltering approach. The term resource center comes from human welfare services and describes the way they provide a safety net beyond sheltering to those experiencing homelessness or in danger of becoming homeless. This radical new shift allows for organizations like ours to focus additional efforts on supporting pet guardians in various ways, so we can, in turn, help the companion animals in our communities. 

By adopting this model at the Humane Society of Utah, we can increase our capacity to care and support struggling pet guardians to help “keep pets and people together,” as our mission states. For example, we understand that the previous two years have been challenging for many. Our community members have been affected by housing insecurities, cost of living increases, supply chain, and veterinary shortages. These challenges have made owning a beloved companion animal more difficult. In response, we’ve worked hard to support guardians affected by the pandemic through the various programs we offer at our Pet Resource Center:

Community Clinic

By providing affordable spay/neuter and vaccines services through our two Preventative Care Clinics located in St. George and Murray, our organization was able to help over 144,000 community-owned pets stay healthy in 2021. Our clinics stayed open year-round to provide 12,643 spay/neuter surgeries to help prevent the pet overpopulation problem and administered 143,904 vaccines to help stop the spread of deadly viruses.

Pet Retention Program

Our Pet Retention program aims to keep pets and owners together, when possible, by providing resources to help owners who are experiencing difficulty but wish to keep their companion animals. By supporting our community members this way, we’re also helping keep pets out of the sheltering system. In 2021, our Pet Retention program served 487 medical cases for community-owned pets. In addition, we sponsored the first free vaccination and microchip clinic in Tooele County, providing 171 cats and dogs with free preventative care.

Community Partnerships

Our Pet Resource Center also connects community members with resources to help them keep their beloved pets through partnerships with organizations like Ruff Haven Crisis Sheltering. We are currently working with organizations such as The Road Home and the YWCA to provide resources, such as vaccines and general pet care supplies. Developing partnerships is one of the key ways we ensure both people and their pets get what they need and stay together.

Join us for the second part of this blog series next month as we discuss the importance of education. And the educational resources our Pet Resource Center provides through our Behavior and Humane Education departments.

A Year in Review: St. George Clinic

In September 2020, the Humane Society of Utah launched a new spay/neuter and vaccination clinic in St. George. As the only low-cost clinic in the area, it provided a much-needed community resource in Washington County. In 2021, the St. George Clinic was voted “Best of Southern Utah” as a silver nonprofit organization.  

The clinic has officially celebrated its first year and has already achieved great success in the St. George animal-loving community. In 2021, our St. George Clinic spayed/neutered 3,265 cats and dogs. These surgeries are the first step in helping curb the pet overpopulation issue that burdens surrounding animal control agencies.

Additionally, 5,095 vaccines were administered to cats and dogs in the community These core vaccinations not only help keep community-owned pets healthy but also protect pet owners and other community members from dangerous viruses like rabies.

HSU aims to continue serving the people and companion animals of St. George and surrounding areas, whether by keeping owned pets happy and healthy with preventative care or committing to helping homeless animals through our rescue partners in the area. 

Wags to Wishes 2021 Gala Recap

wags to wishes 2021 Gala recap

On Saturday, December 4th, 2021, the Humane Society of Utah celebrated 61 years of helping animals during its annual Wags to Wishes Gala, sponsored by the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation. The hour-long event was held virtually this year. It included live videos from HSU’s leadership team, special guests, an interactive bingo game, silent and live items, and an opportunity for participants to send in selfies featured in real-time. 

During the event, Utah Humane’s Executive Director, Vaughn Maurice, shared some of the organization’s recent accomplishments. He stated, “2021 has been a banner year in many ways. One of our most impressive achievements is the 32% increase in spay and neuter surgeries at our Murray clinic. ” Vaughn also pointed out that HSU transported many homeless pets from the Rocky Mountains, Texas, and California to our Pet Resource Center in Murray for adoption.  

In the fall of 2020, HSU opened a low-cost spay and neuter and vaccination clinic in St. George, which conducted 2,900 surgeries in 2021. The success of this clinic has proved that a permanent Pet Resource Center is needed and would be sustainable in this area. A further analysis was conducted to determine the best location for the facility. In August of this year, HSU purchased a 2.2-parcel of land in the heart of the commercial district of Washington County, near Costco, which has the largest retail traffic in the area. This new facility will provide shelter for all domestic animals, a low-cost spay and neuter and vaccination clinic, and a humane education center. 

At the program’s end, Craig Cook, HSU’s Board President, showed a photo of HSU’s original cinder block shelter from 1960 and our current state-of-the-art, 40,000 square foot modern facility. He said, “This growth is all because of people like you and the contributions you have given us throughout the years.” 

Karin Duncker, HSU’s Development Director, is delighted with the response to this year’s gala. “The generosity of our sponsors, donors, and participants was so heartwarming. We raised over $125,000, making this year’s virtual event even more successful than last! More importantly, we had the opportunity to have some fun with our supporters, sponsors, and staff and even glimpse their “house parties” through selfie-sharing. We look forward to being together in person in 2022!”

HSU’s 2021 Wags to Wishes fundraising goal was to raise $150,000 for animals in need. If you were unable to attend virtually, you can still help us reach our goal by making a tax-deductible donation towards our Gala Fund-a-Need project, directly benefiting homeless puppies infected with life-threatening parvovirus. Donate at: utahhumane.org/donate

Renovations To Kitty City & Tiny Town

Tiny Town and Kitty City Renovations and plaque for donors

Renovations to Tiny Town and Kitty City were made possible by these Humane Society of Utah supporters; B is for Brooklyn Parks, Cathy Nelson, India Nielsen, Jodie Rust, Randall Emmett, Reija Toscano, and Toshiko Burton.

kitty city

The generous gifts provided for renovations to existing structures. These renovations included dividing up our three large cat rooms into six smaller rooms to better serve the long-term resident cats in our care. Improvements in lighting and the remodeling of interior spaces also helped provide better care for these cats’ unique needs.

kitty city room

Tiny Town improvements included new flooring, kennel walls, and protective glass to help keep the puppies and young dogs in our care safe from cross-contamination. 

Humane Society of Utah Appoints New Medical Director

Dr. Timna Headshot

We are thrilled to announce that we have a new Medical Director who will oversee all medical activities in our Pet Resource Center and Clinic in Murray: Dr. Timna Fischbein. 

Dr. Timna has worked for the Humane Society of Utah for three years as our Shelter Veterinarian and was promoted to her new role on August 13, 2021. Previously, she worked as a veterinarian for a private practice before realizing that her heart was in providing lifesaving care to homeless pets in the non-profit arena. She received her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Colorado State University in 2012 and has three dogs and two cats of her own. 

Our Communications and Corporate Giving Manager, Shannon Egan, recently took a moment to interview Dr. Timna on her new role and her goals for the future. Here’s what she had to say: 

What is your overall goal and vision as the new Medical Director for the largest animal resource center in the state? 

We are already helping such a large number of animals right now, but my goal is to elevate our standard of care and take everything we do to the next level. Ultimately, I want the Humane Society of Utah to be a role model for other animal welfare organizations in the region. I want us to be a leader that these organizations can and will look up to. 

Can you elaborate on some specific changes you would like to make?

Firstly, I’d like to make significant improvements to our clinic by ensuring all of our policies and procedures are in line with current best practices. For example, I want to improve upon our drug protocols and postoperative recovery procedures. One simple way we can do this is by ensuring animals stay warmer while they are recovering from surgery. This will help them to wake up faster from anesthesia and therefore recover more quickly.  

You mentioned earlier that you’d like all of our medical activities to be more progressive. Can you elaborate on that? 

While our standard operating procedures are already up to par, there is always room for improvement. My plan is to be more progressive and forward-thinking so that our veterinary care is more accessible for the thousands of animals we treat every year. As part of my new role, I will be responsible for staying updated on the animal welfare industry’s best practices and recommendations. This way, we can ensure our care is at the highest standard possible and consistent over time. 

What does it mean to take on such an important leadership role for our organization as a woman?

To me it’s all about inspiring the next generation of animal welfare professionals. I’m excited to be a role-model for other young women who are interested in veterinary medicine and/or animal welfare. Having women in leadership roles gives young people the confidence that they can also achieve similar goals. 

What does this new job role mean to you personally? 

It’s so rewarding for me to be able to bring an animal back from a severe illness or a really deteriorated state and watch them recover and heal and then get adopted. I genuinely believe I am doing the work I was meant to do. I want all the animals who come to us to thrive and live out the happy, healthy lives they deserve. I take my role in helping them achieve this very seriously, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity.

Pythons, Lizards, and Tarantulas – Oh My!

Penelope, a four-foot-long Python, flicks her pink tongue up and out as she slithers across the Humane Society of Utah’s auditorium floor. While this might sound terrifying to some, the small group of third and fourth graders watching her closely are more fascinated than afraid. “Can I hold her?” Mason, eight, asks with a polite raise of his hand. Mason adds that he has a corn snake at home, so he knows a thing or two about these legless creatures. 

Yet, while Mason is most assuredly a snake guru, most of his peers sitting next to him have never met a python before or a majority of the other animals and creatures they’ve encountered while participating in our week-long H.E.R.O. Summer Camp. “We met an Asian water monger, a snapping turtle, and a tarantula, but the chinchilla is my favorite so far!” says Norah, an adorable third grader with lots of spunk. 


During a typical day at our H.E.R.O. (Humane Educators Reaching Out) Camp, children participate in age-appropriate humane education workshops, presentations, games, and more. For example, yesterday, they made mazes to test the intelligence of our adoptable rats. Today, the kids made snake-shaped bowls out of clay. While interacting with animals, making crafts, and going on field trips, camp participants learn, and they learn a lot. “Sure, we want the kids to have fun, but more than anything, we want them to experience and understand the value of animals and how to care and advocate for them,” says Caitlin Lisle, our Director of Humane Education. Studies have shown that humane education helps prevent violence towards animals and helps children to apply the concepts of respect and kindness toward all living beings. It also empowers children to realize that they can make a positive difference in their communities and the world around them. This is the whole premise of the program, says Caitlin.  Click here to learn more about our H.E.R.O. Camp. 

On Puppy Mill Awareness Day (and Everyday), Remember to Adopt, not Shop

caged puppy mill dog

At the Humane Society of Utah, we live and breathe the motto “Adopt, Don’t Shop.” This is not only because we house, care for, and adopt out companion animals who are in need of families. This is also because pet stores and online classified ads often sell animals from large commercial breeding facilities, colloquially known as “puppy/kitten mills.” Puppy and kitten mills place profit over animal welfare, leading to cruelty, neglect, and long-term consequences for the puppies and kittens they produce as well as the families who are duped into buying them. 


What is a puppy/kitten mill?

A puppy/kitten mill is a high-volume commercial breeding operation that puts profit over animal health and welfare. The focus is creating as many puppies or kittens as possible in the shortest amount of time. The operation may be small or large, unlicensed or licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”). If licensed by the USDA, the facility is subject to the Animal Welfare Act (“AWA”), a piece of legislation that has not been significantly updated since its passage in the 1960s, despite considerable advances in what we know about companion animal care. Unfortunately, licensing by the USDA means very little, as the department is significantly underfunded and understaffed, leading to a lack of inspection, oversight, and enforcement of the lax regulations in place for these facilities. 

puppy mill dog in a cage

What are the conditions for animals in a puppy/kitten mill? 

The conditions of these facilities are deplorable at best. The cage size is usually six inches larger than the animal being bred (on each side of the animal) with slatted metal flooring to allow the animals to excrete freely without ever leaving the cage. The cages are usually stacked vertically, one on top of another on top of another. Breeding females usually spend 24 hours a day in their cages, requiring them to urinate and defecate in the cages, causing urine burns to the feet and stomach of the animal and allowing waste to rain down onto animals below. The wire flooring needed for this design often causes ulcers on the paw pads of both cats and dogs. 

Veterinary care is virtually nonexistent. These facilities often simply treat the animals with antibiotics, but do not provide vet checks or grooming. This leads to significant matting that can be painful and cause a lack of movement, curled claws that grow into the pads of the feet and cause significant pain to the animal, and severe dental disease that can become infected, causing oral-nasal fissures that can kill an animal in a horrifically painful manner.


What does this have to do with adopting instead of shopping? 

Everything! Retail stores often source the animals they have available for sale from puppy and kitten mills. Retail stores sell dogs and cats from puppy and kitten mills for two main reasons: 1) the animals are cheaper to procure, leading to a higher profit margin for the pet store and 2) reputable breeders would never sell to a pet store, as it is an industry-standard (and often a trade association requirement) not to do so.  

While the Humane Society of Utah will always promote adoption over other methods of bringing a new pet into your home, we do recognize and acknowledge that families may have special needs that require them to seek a breeder. In such a situation, we recommend avoiding pet stores and online classifieds, opting instead for a reputable breeder in your area. For some tips for finding a reputable breeder, check out this position statement on breeding standards from our friends at the ASPCA. 

puppy mill puppy in a cage

What can I do to fight puppy and kitten mills? 

First and foremost, adopt, don’t shop! Second, help shut down the demand for these facilities by ending sales of dogs and cats in retail pet stores. Find out if your community is one that has banned the sale of dogs and cats in retail pet stores. If it is not, contact your local officials (city council, mayor, county council, etc.) and let them know that profiting off of the suffering of animals is not to be tolerated in your community. 

If you need help with getting in contact with the decision makers in your community or need advice on how to start that conversation, contact us at advocacy@utahhumane.org. We are happy to help in any way that we can.

Our History

our history

History of the Humane Society of Utah

The Humane Society of Utah fosters an atmosphere of love, compassion, and respect for Utah’s pets and is dedicated to the elimination of pain, fear, and suffering in all animals. We work hard to ensure that every healthy and treatable pet that enters our facility will be placed in a loving home, and there is no set limit on the length of time an animal may remain in our adoption program.

 The Humane Society of Utah was founded in 1960. From 1960 to 1992, we were located at a shelter in what is now West Valley City. In 1989, after several bequests were received by a number of donors, we were able to purchase the land where our current Murray facility resides. Shortly after, the construction of our Murray building from 1990 to 1992 was the result of a very generous bequest from a Utah school teacher named Janice Johnson. To this day, our building is named the Janice Johnson Center for Animals. 

In 2014, the expansion and renovation project was completed which allowed us to save more pets than ever before in our history. Using an education-focused open adoption process, positive promotion of shelter pets, and our lifesaving programs and services, our goal is to keep pets and people together, bring them together, and move each individual pet to their most appropriate outcome as quickly as possible. Furthering our progressive multi-pronged approach to increase adoptions and placements of pets, we are constantly improving our shelter.

Beginning in 2009, the Humane Society of Utah embarked on an ambitious remodel project to increase holding space and create a more inviting atmosphere for the public.  The much-needed expansions of our Foster Care, Volunteer, Clinic, and Administration Departments was completed in early 2012. “Kitty City” was also unveiled in 2012—a state-of-the-art adoption area that features our cats in a home-like setting and allows people to interact with their future pet more comfortably. Remarkably, cat adoptions have increased since this new area opened.

In early 2014, the “Bunny Bungalows,” a new adoption area for our third-most adopted species, increased the space available to showcase rabbits.

In May 2014, the highly anticipated “The Wait is Over, Rover” dog adoption area was completed. Our large and small dogs are now showcased for the public in “Dawgville” and “Tiny Town” respectively. As with the cats, the dogs are more relaxed in the new kennel systems that are separated into five different rooms and adoptions have increased as a result.

In 2018, Bunny Bungalows and Rodent Ranch were combined in one large area named Critter Country to better highlight our smallest furry friends. 

Now that you know our history, Please join us in our lifesaving mission, and stand with us to ensure that our doors are always open for every animal, every day.

The Humane Society of Utah is a local, independent 501(c)(3) private nonprofit organization that does not receive any tax dollars or government funding and is not a branch of any national organization. We are funded solely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, and foundations in our community, and supported by sponsorships, grants, bequests, investments, proceeds from our retail outlets and some fees for service. The Humane Society of Utah requires significant resources to provide our programs to animals in need. We can’t do it alone. Our mission is a community initiative which involves collaboration and the support of people like you. You can Change Their World!

Our Transfer Team Has a New Name

The Humane Society of Utah transfer team has a new name—Shelter Overpopulation Animal Rescue or SOAR for short. In 2020, our transfer team gave 2,657 at-risk animals a second chance by bringing them to the Humane Society of Utah to offer medical and behavioral help and to find new loving homes through our adoption center.

The mission of SOAR is simple—to save as many lives as we can. SOAR partners with over 150 shelters and rescue groups across Utah and neighboring states to safely transfer animals from overcrowded and underfunded shelters to the Humane Society of Utah.

The Humane Society of Utah utilizes SOAR where there is the most significant need, including partnering with high-volume shelters and shelters in rural areas with fewer public visitors and low adoption rates. We often transfer from the more distant shelters via flights to decrease the travel stress on these pets.

Some of our most frequent in-state partners include:

North Utah Valley Animal Shelter, Salt Lake County Animal Services, South Utah Valley Animal Shelter, Uintah County Animal Shelter, and West Valley City Animal Services. Some of our out-of-state partners include Maricopa County Animal Care and Control (MACC) in Arizona and The Humane Society of Southeast Texas.

If you would like to help support animals at risk of euthanasia in shelters across the state of Utah and neighboring western states. Make your donation today at SOARtransfer.org, and you can help save countless more lives.

For information on how to become a SOAR transfer partner, email transfer@soartransfer.org.

Happy Tails Reading Program

We are very excited to announce the 2020 Utah Humane Society Happy Tails Reading Program supporting kids and pets!

Reading stimulates the imagination, builds important neuro pathways, and helps children to expand their understanding of the world around them. But did you also know the benefits of reading to animals? Learning to read can be stressful for young children, but when you read to an animal you take away the worry of making mistakes and replace it with a judgment-free reading experience. This has proven to increase motivation to read, increase confidence in reading, and improve fluency while reading. 
This program also has many benefits for shelter pets. Studies have shown that being read to decreases stress levels, can calm restless animals, and helps shy animals gain confidence when meeting new people. All of the perks directly improve an animal’s chance of being quickly adopted and decreases the time they spend in the shelter.  

The Utah Humane Society is excited to offer a chance for children to come in and read to our adoptable animals. 

  • This program is open to kids 1st-6th grades.
  • To ensure safe interactions, we do require an adult 18 or older to accompany the youth reader during their time with the animals.
  • When a youth reader signs up, they will get a bookmark about cats and a sticker next to their name on our reading chart for every 30 minutes of reading.
  • Once you have signed up, you will not need to schedule reading times, you can come in anytime our adoption lobby is open.
  • You bring your own book or choose one from our library.

Please come by anytime during our normal business hours and we will be happy to get you signed up!

You’ll see the sign below posted on the door when a cat is enjoying a story.