Ready to hike with your dog? Get to know FELT!

Have you always wanted to take your dog hiking but aren’t sure how to get started? Well, you’re in luck, because it’s as easy as FELT! That’s Fitness, Equipment, Location, and Training! 

Getting started

First things first, make sure your dog has the needed fitness level for tackling the open trails. If you have any doubts, talk to your vet before your first hike. If your dog is very young, very old, overweight or brachiocephalic (smooshy face), you might need to start with shorter distances and be extra cautious of extreme temperatures. Just like us, dogs who haven’t hiked before or lately should start with shorter, slower hikes to build stamina and avoid overuse injuries.

Group of hikers with a golden colored dog in Hiking Hounds dog training class walk down trail lined with tall green grass and mountains in the background.

Next, make sure you have the right equipment. A well-fitting harness will take the pressure of your dog’s neck and give you something to grab onto if you need to help your dog down a ravine or over a log. A standard six-foot leash can be a great choice, especially on more crowded trails, but many dogs also benefit from a longer leash, such as a 15 or 20 feet long line. This allows your dog more freedom to sniff and explore while also keeping her safe and in accordance with leash laws. You’ll also want to bring along plenty of poop bags so that you can do your part to keep our trails safe and clean for other trail users. Finally, make sure you bring plenty of treats! You’ll want to reinforce your dog for making good choices while out and about.

Location, location

When it comes to picking the location, there are countless great online resources, such as the AllTrails app. Just remember that sometimes the information is not always perfectly accurate, so be sure to double-check signage when you arrive to be sure you’re on the right track. On hot days, trails near water or with generous tree coverage can make for a more enjoyable experience for dogs and humans alike! Along the Wasatch Front, you’ll also need to be sure to avoid trails in the watershed, as dogs are prohibited in these areas, and there’s a hefty fine for straying into these areas. They will be delineated with “No Dogs” signage at the trailheads.

Group of hikers with a red colored dog in Hiking Hounds dog training class walk across a stream with green forest behind them.

The right training for hiking

Finally, be sure your dog has the right training to be successful out on the trails with other people and dogs. Some skills that will make the hike more enjoyable for both of you include: walking politely on a leash, greeting (or ignoring) other dogs as needed, crossing natural obstacles such as rocks and logs, coming when called, and more. If your dog doesn’t yet have a firm grasp on these skills and you’d like some guidance, The Humane Society of Utah offers a series of Hiking Hounds training classes throughout the summer. Each class is self-contained and will help your dog learn the skills they need to be a successful hiker for years to come.

Lily’s story: A bunny learns to trust

A rough start for a tiny bunny

Lily is a red-eyed floof of a bunny with silky, white angora fur. Weighing only three pounds, she’s tiny as in teeny tiny. Yet despite Lily’s small frame, her guardian, Cynthia says, “she’s one feisty gal! But she had a really rough start in life, so it could be a defense mechanism.” 

When Cynthia first met Lily at the Humane Society of Utah in March 2015, she was four months old and in pretty bad shape. Not only was Lily horribly matted, but her previous owners had kept her in a small cage that severely restricted her movement. And she seemed to be terrified of human contact. 

“I was afraid of Lily when I first met her. She would lunge at anyone who tried to get close to her and even try to bite them. Nobody dared to touch her; she was that vicious.” But Cynthia has always had a soft spot for rabbits and has cared for many over the years. She believed that Lily could eventually learn to trust with a bit of time and patience. So, Cynthia offered to foster Lily to give her just that. 

Lily softens her guard

When Cynthia brought Lily home for the first time, she put her in a large kennel to give her plenty of space to move around. “For the first two weeks, I could only get her out of the kennel unless her back was to me. If Lily saw me coming, she’d go into full-on attack mode.”

Remarkably, it took just a few weeks for Lily’s guard to soften. Cynthia helped this happen by giving her nutritious foods and the occasional treat and spending lots of time with her. “Then, one day, when I was holding Lily, she started giving me little kisses on my hand. I took a chance and held her up to my cheek, and she kissed it. It melted my heart.” 

But Lily’s challenges didn’t stop there. Our veterinarian had found an abscess on her thigh, and she would need to have it removed. When Cynthia brought her to our clinic in Murray for the surgery, our medical team was shocked by Lily’s new demeanor. “She was so sweet to the staff, and nobody could believe it was the same rabbit,” Cynthia recollected with a laugh. 

After surgery, Lily’s defensive nature kicked in again – but only momentarily. She didn’t like her stitches, so she ripped them out. Cynthia and her husband, Greg, tried wrapping Lily’s wound in an ace bandage, but she ripped this off, too. “The good thing about this experience was that it brought the three of us closer because we had to handle her more. This is when she really started to trust us.” 

A happy ending for this bunny

A woman with short blonde hair sits on a teal green backdrop holding a small white bunny in her arms and large white and gray bunny in her lap.

Once Lily healed, Cynthia and Greg adopted her into their family. Eventually, they introduced Lily to one of their other buns, Cooper, a ten-pound lopped-eared rabbit. The two bonded instantly, and to Cynthia’s amazement, Lily proved to be quite the caretaker. “She’s an excellent bunny buddy. She loves grooming Cooper and is always glued to his side, even though she’s less than half his size. But she’s definitely the dominant one in that relationship – my forever feisty gal!”

Cynthia and Greg have been caring for Lily for over seven years now, and they love to reflect on how far she’s come. These days, Lily enjoys hopping around the house or digging holes in her outdoor playpen. While she still has mild reservations about humans, neither Greg nor Cynthia mind.  “It’s taken a lot of time and patience for Lily to warm up as much as she has, but she’s just precious and we love her just the way she is.”

Feeling PAW-triatic? Firework Safety Tips for Pets

Firework season can be a scary time for pets. Keep your pets safe by following these tips.

  • Exercise your pet on the morning of the holidays when you think there may be fireworks
    • This will get extra anxiety out and calm your pet down before the night begins
  • Keep pets inside and away from loud noises 
    • It’s a good idea to create a safe space where pets feel secure inside the house. Use an inner room away from windows or a crate filled with your pet’s favorite toys and bedding. Keep a light or two on and consider turning the TV or radio on for some calming background noise. If your pet hides somewhere in this safe space, allow them to do so. Do not try to coax them out, as hiding is a natural coping mechanism for animals. Make sure pets always have fresh water available
  • Leave your pets home while venturing out to loud and crowded places
    • Fido and Fluffy don’t want to go with you to your local fireworks display! Again, make sure they have a safe place to stay while you’re out
  • Pets may be tempted to run if startled by loud noises. Ensure that outdoor areas are securely fenced and your pets cannot get out of your yard
    • In case of an escape, have microchips and valid ID tags on all of your pets and make sure information is current and accurate
    • If your pet escapes during the firework show contact your local animal shelter, post online or on social media lost and found pages
  • Check with your veterinarian for additional help
    • For especially anxious pets, they may suggest a snug t-shirt to make your pet feel secure or prescribe medication to use during the holidays. If your pet is prescribed a medication, never share this with other pets or give your animal more than the recommended dose
  • Be aware that anxiety may last longer than the fireworks display
    • If your pet still seems on edge after the fireworks are over or even the next morning, continue to keep them inside and surrounded by calming things, such as their favorite treats or toys. Make sure that you’ve cleaned up any party debris before allowing your pet free reign of the yard again

What’s in a Name? Pet Resource Center: Part 2

In our last blog post entitled ‘What’s in a Name? Pet Resource Center’, we explained why we’re no longer referring to ourselves as an “animal shelter” and are now calling ourselves a “Pet Resource Center.” This follow-up post will expand on why the Humane Society of Utah has adopted this new model by showcasing the educational services we provide through behavior and humane education.

Humane Education

At HSU, we believe that educating younger generations is the key to ensuring better lives for animals in the future. We support this belief by providing education sessions for schools and community groups at no cost. Our colorful and thought-provoking presentations are for youth from preschool to senior high. We cover age-appropriate topics from basic pet care to complex ethical and moral issues. No matter the age group, participants are taught the importance of proper pet care, spaying/neutering to control the pet population, choosing adoption first, and how to appropriately interact with animals. Teachers can schedule field trips to our shelter to meet and learn about our humane education animals and tour our center. 

Young Boy in Kitty City

HSU also offers a H.E.R.O. Summer, Fall, and Spring Camp for children ages first through sixth grade at our Pet Resource Center. During a typical day at our week-long H.E.R.O. (Humane Educators Reaching Out) Camp, children participate in age-appropriate humane education workshops, presentations, games, and more. Workshops focus on different types of animals each day, many with visitors – two-legged, four-legged, finned, and feathered – from other animal welfare groups in Utah. Our education services are in constant demand throughout the Wasatch Front and beyond. In 2021, our Humane Education Program reached 10,226 children – a 37% increase from 2020.

Behavior and Training

Since many pet guardians experience behavioral issues that can create challenging problems and these frustrations can lead guardians to consider rehoming their pet, our Pet Resource Center offers adopters the opportunity to meet with our certified trainers at no cost. 

Dog training class at Humane Society of Utah

Our behavior staff are all certified trainers and regularly participate in continuing education to ensure they are familiar with the latest understanding and best practices on animal behavior. Our trainers are committed to a behavior program based on positive reinforcement and only use humane training techniques utilizing evidence-based learning theories. We know that committing to positive reinforcement helps us build trusting relationships with animals while effectively meeting our training goals. And we feel it is our responsibility to provide the most effective training options for our community.

A Fond Farewell

Dear Friends,

Throughout my life and career, change is something that I have welcomed. Change helps us grow,
challenge ourselves and expand our perspectives. Beginning mid-June, I will be stepping my career
forward and taking on new and different challenges as the Executive Director of the Stanislaus Animal
Services Agency. It’s an organization much like HSU with the added element of animal control law
enforcement. While I’m excited about this change, I hold enormous amounts of fulfillment for all that
we have accomplished together for the betterment of animals at the Humane Society of Utah over the
past 3 plus years. It’s these milestones and moments that I will carry with me for a lifetime.

The Humane Society of Utah is a special place. A place that is not reliant on a single person, it is the collective group that creates the greatness that is HSU. I leave the Humane Society of Utah knowing that the future of the organization is bright. In the past 3 years, we have achieved so much. We opened a new clinic in St. George and purchased a large lot for future St. George expansion. We did this while eliminating all our debt, building up over $3 million in reserves, and growing from a $6.2 million annual budget to nearly a $9 million budget, putting us in a very strong financial position for the future to help even more animals. Our programs expanded as we passed statewide legislation benefiting animals for the first time in 14 years; we have helped more families than ever keep pets in their homes and out of shelters; we have educated more children than ever throughout the state; we have expanded our transport program; we even began a pilot program with the University of Utah to have a social work student work with families needing help with animal situations. We accomplished all of this and more while the organization navigated the major challenges of COVID. With a solid team of leaders, our robust volunteer corps, our generous donors, and our outstanding staff, HSU will continue to grow and enhance the lives of animals and the people who love them for many decades to come.

I will always have a special place in my heart for my colleagues. The amazing people who work here have hearts so big and a passion so real that it astounded me every day. Every one of them is my hero. I truly thank each of them for being such a positive force that enhances the lives of animals and people, every day. I am grateful for my time as a part of this compassionate and caring team.

That I have had the privilege of playing a small role in the amazing story of the Humane Society of Utah
has been a joyful honor.

With great appreciation,

Vaughn Maurice

Meet Our St. George Medical Director, Dr. Katie Gray, DVM

We are thrilled to introduce you to our Medical Director, Dr. Katie Gray, DVM, who oversees all medical activities in our spay, neuter, and vaccination clinic in St. George. Dr. Gray is originally from Minnesota where she graduated from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine in April 2011.  While in veterinary school she planned and implemented a humane education program for grades 1-4.  She then completed a small animal rotating internship at Texas A&M University. She moved to Oregon in 2013 and was the Medical Director at the Bend Spay and Neuter Project and practiced high volume spay/neuter for 6 years before moving to Utah in 2020.

St. George Medical Director Dr. Katie Gray poses with white dog in open field.

Additionally, Dr. Gray received training in high-volume, high-quality spay/neuter at both Emancipet in Austin, TX, and Humane Alliance in Asheville, NC.  She has directed and participated in numerous MASH spay/neuter clinics including monthly free clinics at the Warm Springs reservation in Oregon. She has three Great Pyrenees rescue dogs who are all “couch potatoes” and a one-eared rescue cat. 

In early 2022, Dr. Gray sat down with a member of our team to shed light on her goals for HSU’s St. George clinic, the current challenges she’s facing, and how HSU is working to find solutions. 

What is your overall goal and vision as the Medical Director for our new St. George clinic?

Dr. Gray: My goal is always to provide excellent patient care, ensuring that any patient (shelter, owned, and TNR cats) that comes through our doors is treated with the highest level of care and has the least stressful experience possible. In our first year of operations, we completed 3,265 spay/neuter surgeries including 360 community cat TNR surgeries and I would like to see this number continue to grow each year we are open in order to help prevent overpopulation and lessen the number of animals entering the shelters and rescues in the area. 

St. George Medical Director Dr. Katie Gray DVM hold small puppy with red eye patch and freckles over her shoulder.

Can you provide specifics on what you’d like to contribute to our St. George clinic as the Medical Director? 

Dr. Gray: I would like to contribute leadership that fosters a positive environment for our staff and for the clients and patients we serve. A strong, cohesive team is key to being able to make an impact in the community and serve as many animals as possible.

What are some of the positive aspects of the animal welfare community in St. George?

Dr. Gray: The animal welfare community in St. George, but also in the surrounding areas has been wonderful to work with! We are lucky to have so many shelters and rescues in the area that care so deeply about animals. Because of this, we have been able to make much more of an impact in the community.

What are some challenges currently facing St. George’s animal welfare community and what are some potential solutions to these challenges? 

One of the largest challenges in the area when we first got here was the ability for shelters and rescues to obtain affordable and timely spay/neuter surgeries. We were able to work with all the rescues and shelters with their schedules to provide affordable surgeries for animals on an as-needed basis as best as we can accommodate sometimes with same-day notice.

The other large challenge is that Washington County has the most pet shops of any county in all of Utah and all of them source puppies from puppy mills. Many pet shop dogs end up in shelters because of behavioral problems resulting from a lack of necessary socialization and unexpected illnesses that owners are unaware of at the time of purchase. A solution to this issue would be to pass a local or state ordinance that would ban the sale of dogs and cats in pet shops where they could instead showcase adoptable dogs and cats from local shelters/rescues or hold adoption events with shelters/rescues in their shop space as well as selling pet supplies to the adopters.

St. George Medical Director Dr. Katie Gray DVM hold small puppy with pointy ears in her fleece jacket.

What do you enjoy about living in St. George? 

St. George is a beautiful city and I love being so close to so many national parks. My husband and I regularly visit and hike (with our dogs) on many different trails. 

Where do you hope our spay, neuter, and vaccine St. George clinic will be in 2-3 years?

I hope that we are continuing to provide our current services as well as offering some new services for affordable prices in order to provide even more access to basic care for animals in the community.

What do you enjoy most about working with and supporting animals?

I was one of those animal people that said I was going to be a veterinarian since I was 2 or 3 years old. I love working with animals and being able to help in any way that I can. I have a passion for shelter work and TNR as it allows me to take care of animals that no one else may be looking out for and hopefully improving their lives and helping to find them homes. 

June is Adopt a Cat Month! Here’s Why Cats Make Purr-fect Pets

It may be true that you can’t buy happiness, but you can adopt a cat, and we think that’s pretty dang close! June is National Adopt a Cat Month, and coming in on the heels of “kitten season” (the period of the year in which the most kittens are born), it’s the perfect time to think about adding a feline to the family.

What cat with orange ears sit on cat tree.

Here are a few reasons to consider a shelter kitty for your next pet:

  • You’re saving a life, maybe even multiple lives!
    • Adopting a cat not only makes for a happier and longer life for the animal you adopted, and for many cats who will come after them. We have far more animals on the planet than we have space for in animal shelters, and adopting one opens up room for another animal to have the chance at finding a home. So, you’re making a difference to far more cats than you may have thought!
  • Petting a cat a day keeps the doctor away?
    • You may have heard before that a cat’s purr has “healing powers”, but is that true? The short answer is yes! When you hold a purring cat, your body releases positive endorphins, which are basically happy chemicals for your brain. This can improve mental health and reduce stress, which means you are less at risk for stress-related medical complications. 
  • Cats are easy-going pets
    • Cats are notoriously independent, and they are a great option for pet owners who would like a lower-maintenance companion. “[Cats] don’t require a large amount of outdoor time and physical exercise,” said Gabby Davis, an HSU adoption counselor. “They are wonderful companions that are happy just existing in the same space as you while you complete your own activities, but love playtime, enrichment and training!”
  • Adopting a cat from a shelter is inexpensive
    • Not only is adopting a cat from a shelter going to save you money as compared to purchasing from a breeder, but shelter cats most often come with vaccinations, spayed/neutered, and have been recently examined by our medical team. Aside from saving a chunk of cash on those medical fees, adopting from a nonprofit like HSU means the money you pay for your kitty will go right back towards the care of other animals like them!
  • Cats are adorable
    • There’s a reason felines have ruled the internet for all these years– people can’t get enough of them! Not only do they have cute little faces and toe-beans, but they have silly and charming habits too, like chasing string toys or a catnip mouse. And, in our opinion, there is absolutely no feeling in the world like a cat cuddling up beside you.

Adopt One of These Shelter Cats!

  • Grey shelter cat looking up against black backdrop.
  • Blue eyed shelter cat lays on tile floor.
  • Black and white shelter cat plays with brown feather toy.
  • Long haired orange shelter cat lays on blue mat in studio with white backdrop.
  • Black and white cat looks up with big green eyes.

To view all our adoptable cats and kittens click here.

Have the UltiMUTT Summer: Hot Weather Pet Safety

As the temperatures rise, it is important that pets and pet owners alike take precautions to stay safe and healthy in the summer heat. While many animals spend quite a bit of their time outdoors, some extra precautions are necessary this time of year to prevent heatstroke, heat exhaustion, and other hot-weather ailments.

Small white scruffy dogs runs across grass on a bright sunny day with tongue out panting and tail wagging.

The Humane Society of Utah suggests the following hot weather tips to keep your pets panting happily (and not heat-ily) this summer season:

  • Keep pets indoors more often during extreme heat, do not leave them outside all-day
  • Make sure pets have a cool place to retreat to in the yard, such as a shady spot. Keep in mind that some outdoor dog houses can be hotter than the outdoor temps
  • Cool and fresh water should be available to pets at all times, both indoors and outdoors
  • If the asphalt is too hot for your hands and feet, it is too hot for your pets. Place your hand on the sidewalk for 10 seconds to test the temperature
  • Provide pet-safe frozen treats to help your animals cool down
  • Make sure your pet is current on all their vaccinations, especially if they are going to be in close contact with other animals
  • Check pets for ticks, foxtails, and grass seeds following outdoor activity
  • Ensure that your yard is free of plants which are toxic to dogs and cats such as lilies, sago palms, and rhododendrons, and be careful with use of insecticides and weed killers, which may be poisonous to your pets
  • Make use of pet-safe sunscreens and bug repellents
  • Avoid leaving windows open around unattended pets. Even with a screen, there is a risk your pet could fall out or jump through the opening
  • If your pet wants to share your plate at a summer BBQ, know what foods are not pet-safe, such as onions, avocados, olives, garlic, grapes, cooked bones, and alcohol. 
  • Do not leave pets unattended near water– not all pets can swim! Limit the amount of pool water your pets drink, chlorine and other chemicals can be dangerous, and rinse your pets off after taking a swim in chlorinated or salty water. If your pet loves to cool off with a dip, consider investing in a pet lifejacket.
  • If you have a brachycephalic (short-nosed, flat-faced) breed such as a pug, Persian cat, or any type of bulldog, know that their short noses cause them to overheat quicker than other animals. Overweight and older pets are also at higher risk for heat stroke, so keep these furry friends in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.
  • Do not leave pets unattended in vehicles! Doing so is a major risk for heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and heat-related death. Even if the vehicle is on and air-conditioning is running, leaving pets unsupervised can lead to other emergencies such as the animal accidentally shifting a gear or engine failure.
  • Excessive panting or difficulty breathing
  • Increased heat and respiratory rate
  • Drooling
  • Fatigue
  • Mild weakness, stupor, or collapse
  • Seizures
  • Bloody diarrhea or vomit
  • An elevated body temperature over 104 degrees

Mochi’s Story:  A Family’s Unexpected First Pet

Mochi was just four-months-old when he found himself up for adoption at the Humane Society of Utah’s Kitty City. This high-spirited, black and white striped kitten greeted everyone who passed by with an excited meow, as if to say, “pick me, pick me!” 

Adopting a Kitten

Shu Saito, one of HSU’s long-time corporate sponsors, took notice. Shu was visiting HSU that day to drop off, yet again, another generous donation to our nonprofit. Alongside him were his wife, Amy, and their five-year-old son, Kota. Amy and Kota had always wanted a cat of their own, but Shu had too many reservations. 

“My husband didn’t grow up with pets, so he didn’t know what to expect. He was worried that owning one would be more mess and responsibility than we could handle,” Amy explained. “But I told him on our way to HSU that it would be difficult for me to leave without adopting a kitten. I didn’t think in a million years he would be open to it.”

Amy grew up with cats and enjoyed their company so much; she is a “little obsessed.” She and Kota had tried to talk Shu into adopting one several times, but Shu wouldn’t budge. However, when Shu saw Kota and Mochi visiting that day, he had a change of heart. “Mochi and Kota got along from the start, and Kota was so excited to meet his new friend. It just felt right,” Amy shared.

A Family Falls In Love

The four of them have been a family for several months now, and it’s going better than expected. “There was a learning curve,” Amy explained. “We had to figure out Mochi’s personality and where we were going to put the litter box and how to keep it clean. But our son loves his new kitty so much. They sleep together every night.” 

Shu has fallen in love with Mochi, too, and vice versa. While Shu is lounging on the couch after a long day at work, Mochi will come to lay directly on top of him and fall asleep. “I love seeing the two of them together. It’s precious! Mochi has such a cute personality. He will bring us his little balls so we can play fetch, which I’ve never seen a cat do before.”  

Amy and her family are over the moon with their unexpected adoption. In a short time, Mochi has become an essential part of their family, and they wouldn’t have it any other way, litter box hassle and all.

Oopsie, Don’t Forget Your Poopsie!

Did you know by not picking up after your dog, you’re putting other people and their pets at risk of exposure to harmful bacteria and parasites?

What happens when you don’t herd your turds?

The parasites and bacteria in dog waste can spread disease to humans and other animals, including wildlife. Even if your dog does not show symptoms of being sick, their waste can carry diseases harmful to humans and other pets. E. coli, Salmonella, Giardia, Parvovirus, and parasites like ringworm and tapeworm, to name a few.

Stormwater will carry pet waste and other pollutants directly into our waterways. Animal waste also adds nitrogen to the water. The excess nitrogen depletes the oxygen in the water necessary for beneficial underwater grasses, wildlife, and fish. To protect our watershed and drinking water is why dogs are not allowed in Big or Little Cottonwood Canyon. 

Dog waste is not a natural fertilizer. Since most dogs’ diets are high in protein, it has the reverse effect of fertilizer. Dog waste can take up to 12 months to fully break down.

Leave No Trace

“But I’ll grab it on the way out.” Unfortunately, even with the best intentions, many people don’t.

We are blessed to live in a state with incredible natural beauty and access to unforgettable outdoor adventure minutes from our doorsteps. While many of these areas remain open to dogs, there is no guarantee they’ll stay that way. And, let’s be honest, most people do not appreciate walking along a trail dotted with brightly colored poop bags or stepping in the dreaded pile of dog poo.

We encourage everyone to leave no trace and Be Part of the Solution to the Poo-lution! 

Here are some easy ways to pack out your dog’s poop without worrying about the smell.

After bagging your pup’s poop, use a clean peanut butter jar to seal the smell. Small peanut butter jars will easily fit in most fanny packs, backpacks, or purses. Best of all, they’re free! You can also purchase a smell-proof Bag off amazon for around $10-$15 or get fancy with a Ruffwear Pack it Out Bag.

Finally, one of the most important reasons you should be scooping your dog’s poop is because it’s the law. Many cities and towns have local ordinances requiring you to clean up after your dog. Please help us keep the Wasatch Front and surrounding areas dog-friendly by picking up after your dog. Whether it’s on or off-leash, it’s a privilege to access these areas with our four-legged friends.