Who do I think is southern Utah’s animal lover and activist? Aggie Smith. Not only did Aggie introduce me to my perfect dog, Holly, at an adoption event, she has helped find homes for countless animals and brought animal awareness to southern Utah. Ever since she could remember, Aggie was an animal lover. Dogs, cats, birds, iguanas, and snapping turtles are only a few of the types of pets she adopted in her childhood. “I always had this affinity for animals … they give you love and complete protection and we’re the ones that need to protect them.” Her nurturing passion for animals ran so deeply that others began to notice. She became the neighborhood “animal lover” and go-to person for all things animals. This hasn’t seemed to change since then.
When Aggie moved to Ivins in 2006, she knew she wanted to volunteer and eventually work at a no-kill animal shelter. She found Ivins Animal Shelter where she worked for a solid 10 years while also working as a part-time animal control officer. Within those 10 years, Aggie, shelter director, was able to start many programs for the animal community.
The Good Citizen K-9 Program emerged a few years ago when Aggie and other volunteers came up with an idea to get more dogs adopted. “A lot of shelter dogs that come are turned in by their owners because they get them when they are puppies and don’t spend enough time with them. They are wonderful, sweet dogs but have no manners whatsoever.” Aggie stated. With this program utilizing many volunteers and one coordinator, dogs go through training at the Woof Center and eventually take the test to become a K-9 Good Citizen, making them much more adoptable at the shelter.
Aggie also was a part of the food bank for pet owners going through tough times having difficulty feeding their pets. In addition, with spay and neutering being a costly vet appointment, Aggie was able to help work with Best Friends Animal Sanctuary for low cost spay and neutering. They do transfers for the local shelters twice a month including puppies and kittens. Having more shelter animals spayed and neutered lowers the amount of deaths in kill shelters every year, something that Aggie and all animal lovers are heavily against.
Aggie recently received a job to further her love and passion for animal activism. With the official title “Program and Development Coordinator” Aggie now works for Because Animals Matter. BAM was founded in 2006 by J. Schilling and is based out of Hurricane to “educate and be an advocate for animals to reduce the abuse and neglect through education” and in addition become a rescue group.
With Aggie’s new job position, she is excited to expand the presentations at local school programs raising animal awareness. She is also looking to develop BAM’s fundraising in order to grow its fostering program and low cost spay and neutering. Kibbles on Wheels is another program BAM offers that Aggie wishes to expand to more areas in southern Utah. This program works with Meals on Wheels helping owners with financial burdens feed themselves and their pets.
One thing that Aggie wishes would change are laws concerning animals. “You can get a ticket for being cruel to your animal and pay less for that than you do for a traffic violation … that makes no sense.”
However, with all of the cruelty Aggie has seen concerning animals, nothing compares to the happiness she feels when an animal finds its forever home. She couldn’t help but choke back tears when I asked her favorite thing about working with animals. “The biggest thing is when we have taken an animal that has been scared and deemed un-adoptable … we had a dog that had a badly mangled leg … she had to have her leg amputated and now she is a service dog for a little girl who also doesn’t have a leg.” Countless heartwarming happy endings that Aggie gets to witness are just the cherry on top with being an animal advocate.
Aggie’s kind-heartedness has made her go beyond her duties to ensure the health and safety of the animals in southern Utah.
How can you help our local furry friends? Join BAM this Saturday, Dec. 10 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Bone Appetit for a pet adoption event and discounted pet items this holiday season. Or visit BAMutah.com to learn more.