Local animal rescue struggles to find adoptees and fosters post-pandemic

HEBER CITY, Utah —During the COVID-19 pandemic many animal shelters and rescues occasionally had empty cages, but in a post-pandemic landscape the outlook is not so positive for many homeless pets.

According to data from Shelter Animals Count, the pet adoption rate in the U.S. in 2020 increased compared to 2019, and the pet intake rate for shelters decreased by 24%.

But now that many workers have returned to the office and life has resumed a more steady pace, fewer animals are being adopted. According to another report from Shelter Animals Count, more dogs are now entering animal shelters nationwide than leaving.

The non-live outcome rate for dogs has nearly doubled from 5.6% to 10% from the first quarter of 2021 to the first quarter of 2023, meaning that approximately twice as many dogs did not leave shelters alive during the first three months of 2023 compared to the same period in 2021.

“The crisis shelters are facing does not originate within the shelters,” Stephanie Filer, executive director of Shelter Animals Count, said in a press release. “Shelters need help now more than ever. This is a community problem that requires a community solution.”

On a local level, Paws for Life, a Heber-based nonprofit animal rescue dedicated to ending animal homelessness and euthanasia, is currently overwhelmed with cats.

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“During the pandemic, vets were not allowed to do any spay neuters because all of the PPE had to go to hospitals, so they were only permitted to do emergent surgeries,” said Karyn Fragomeni, director of operations at Paws for Life. “So there were lot of unwanted litters because there was no spay neuter for a while.”

The organization, which currently houses close to 150 animals, works by pulling animals out of animal shelters, and it relies on fosters to house the animals while they wait for their forever homes. The fewer fosters Paws for Life has, the fewer animals they are able to rescue. But lately, volunteers willing to foster have been fewer and farther between.

“We are a foster-based rescue, which means we cannot pull animals from the shelter until we have fosters lined up,” Fragomeni said. “It’s been really hard to get fosters, and I know it’s not just us. In talking to people that work other rescues. They’re saying the same thing.”

Paws for Life provides all the essentials to fosters to care for the animals, and the only requirements are that volunteers take good care of the animals, and are willing to bring them into the Heber adoption center to meet prospective adoptees.

“We provide the food, toys, crates, you know, whatever you would need to foster,” Fragomeni said. “You just have to have the time, the patience and the love to give the animals.”

Paws for Life will host its annual Cause FORE the PAWS Golf Scramble Tournament on August 29 at Red Ledges. The tournament is a golf scramble play on the private Jack Nicklaus 18-hole golf course, and is the organization’s biggest fundraising event of the year.

“If people wanted to contribute in a way that’s not directly doing something with the animals, and they like to golf, that’s a good way to do it,” Fragomeni said.

To learn more about fostering and other volunteer opportunities at Paws for Life, visit To view pets currently available for adoption at Paws for Life, visit

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