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South Salt Lake Journal

SSL Animal Services helps residents, animals for 40-plus years

Oct 21, 2020 02:29PM ● By Bill Hardesty

SSL Animal Services has been helping residents and animals for over 40 years. (Bill Hardesty/City Journals)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

South Salt Lake Animal Control officers are not “dog catchers” and the place they work, South Salt Lake Animal Services, is not the “dog pound.” These are outdated terms for a place and organization that works to protect animals and for people who try their best to give the animals a second chance in life.

“Watching a dog go to a forever family is very rewarding,” Chelsea Torres, animal control officer, said.

SSL Animal Services

The SSL Animal Services is more than 40 years old. It started with a small truck and a row of kennels. The current location at 2274 S. 600 West was built in 1977. As needs grew, the building was expanded.

The building is still small but within the building, 20-30 animals were housed pre-pandemic. Currently, the numbers are much less.

The shelter is a no-kill shelter. Animals are typically housed for five to 10 days. If the animal isn’t collected or adopted, the shelter works with multiple rescue organization like The Humane Society of Utah and Best Friends Animal Society to find a forever home. The aim is to never put down an animal.

Typically, the shelter takes in dogs, cats, and other small animals like rabbits, birds, and chickens. However, they have been called to pick up a baby anaconda, a large bearded dragon, a tarantula and Norwegian ponies.

Current situation

Like so many other places, the animal shelter is currently closed for walk-in traffic. However, you can call for an appointment and view shelter animals as well as rescue group animals at

The shelter is not taking surrenders. 

“When a person calls us asking to give up their pet we try and figure out what the root cause of the surrender is. We will give resources to help them with problems they may be having. However, not every person has options to try and keep the pet and, in those cases, they will surrender the pet to the city. We never want to see this happen but, in some cases, there isn't much else we can do. Once an animal comes into the shelter, we do a behavioral test on the pet to see what kind of home that dog or cat will be best in. We try our hardest to ensure that the new home will be one that sticks. If a dog is aggressive it does not mean that it is a bad dog. It just means we have to be a little picky in the home they go to with experienced dog owners with no other pets in the house. We are here to make sure every pet gets a second chance,” Torres said.

They still take in strays and work to reconnect the animal with their family. If they pick up a stray, but because of a microchip or a license the animal is from a different jurisdiction, the animal will be transferred to the correct shelter.

Cost of services

If a dog or cat has been spayed or neutered and are microchipped, the cost for adoption is $8 for cats and $18 for dogs. If the dog or cat has not been spayed or neutered, the cost goes up to $68 for cats and $100 for dogs, which pays for the needed surgery. 

“Please spay and neuter your pets,” Torres said.

If because of ill health, an owner chooses to euthanize their animal, SSL Animal Services can help. The cost is $10 for residents and $100 for non-residents. If the owner wants only their animal’s ashes returned, the cost is $75. However, if the owner allows their animal to be joined with another animal, the cost is $35. In this case, the owner gets most of their animal’s ashes back along with helping another animal to have a final resting place.

Animals and the pandemic

In a Salt Lake Tribune article published on May 2, it was reported the interest in adopting dogs has increased during the pandemic. However, the number of adoptions was about the same as before the pandemic. 

Because shelters and resource groups were closed to the public, more dogs were put out to foster families. Online, adoption agencies only placed a few photos. This gave a sense of a low supply. So, the longest a dog was featured was lower.

Given the appearance of a shortage and the need increasing, more future owners turned to breeders at a significant increase in cost.

Torres suggests to always do research on the breeder. 

“It is important to know that if you are paying for a purebred, you are getting a purebred,” Torres said.

Adoption advice

SSL Animal Services encourage the motto, “Adopt, don’t shop” meaning to go to shelters or rescue groups rather than to a puppy store. 

“Do your research on what you think you want, a purebred dog from a breeder may look pretty but shelters and rescues will have all sorts of options. Mutts are some of the cutest and healthiest dogs out there, and if you want that purebred yorkie you should still go check your local shelter, they do turn up every once and while,” Torres said.

Adoption is a big commitment. Owners need to think about taking care of an animal for its entire life, which for dogs is about 10-15 years and 15-20 years for cats.

“Bringing home that new dog or cat is exciting and we love watching them leave our shelter into a happy new life. The animals we care for here at South Salt Lake are like our own pets and we love them all, we can't take them all home so when they leave we tend to get a little emotional knowing that they have a second chance at forever,” Torres said.


Animal licensing isn’t simply a revenue stream for the city. It is designed to protect the community from sick dogs and cats and allows Animal Services to reunite stray animals.

According to city code, all dogs and cats need to be licensed after turning six months or 10 days after acquiring an animal older than six months. Proof of vaccinations is required at the time of licensing. Ferrets need to be licensed as well.

A tag with the license number is given and should be worn by the animal. In the case of cats, owners can request the animal be microchipped rather than having a tag. 

If an incident like a dog bite occurs, a license allows Animal Services to know the responsible party and the rabies status of the dog.