Saturday, July 30, 2011

High goals having been reached, the Arizona Animal Welfare League & SPCA is reaching for more when the state's largest and oldest no-kill animal shelter conducts its second Empty the Shelter Adopt-a-Thon this weekend.

Last year, 180 animals were placed in homes in a 12-hour period.

This year, the group hopes to match more than 200 animals with owners.

That's nearly 17 dogs or cats an hour.

"We were amazed that we succeeded last year," says Monika Sperke, the group's development director. "We didn't have anything to compare it to, so we were really proud when we achieved it."

According to Sperke, Arizona has one of the largest pet-overpopulation problems in the country. About 42,000 Arizona pets are euthanized each year, she says.

The problem grows in the summer as the warm weather encourages cats to procreate.

"They breed so much more, and you see lots of puppies and kittens going into shelters," Sperke said. "It's really sad."

Nicholas Lepsy knows the story of the state's overcrowded shelters. Last year, in conjunction with the adoption program, the 23-year-old Scottsdale man adopted a Siamese mix kitten.

"She's like my first true pet," said Lepsy, who works at a sushi restaurant. "I'd grown up with cats, but I never really had my own animal before."

He brought home the 8-week-old cat and named her Sprinkles. The bonding was immediate.

"I was living alone and getting a little lonely," he said. "When I got her home, I immediately fell in love with her. Now, she's always sleeping on my bed. Every time I'm in the kitchen at the stove she's underneath my legs, cooking with me."

Lepsy knew he wanted to get an animal from a shelter rather than going to a pet store and buying one.

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