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Sandy Journal

Rescue rovers is what women want

Oct 04, 2017 10:57AM ● By Jana Klopsch

Aspen Plurbaugh with Wanton, the four-and-half-month-old Chihuahua looking for a forever home. (Keyra Kristoffersen/City Journals)

Amid the vendor booths touting the latest hair care, makeup and clothing lines, the What a Woman Wants convention at the South Towne Expo Center also offered some special guests in the form of four-legged fur babies. 

“It’s very fun, and the more dogs you get, the more different colors you get to see of them and it’s really different to have their different personalities. Some can be really feisty and others can be really sweet,” said Aspen Purbaugh about Rescue Rovers, a Utah-based foster and adoption organization that works with shelters in and around Utah to help find the best homes for displaced and abandoned dogs. 

The nonprofit started in 2013 as a dog transport group for high-kill shelters and other organizations before branching into adoption. With no permanent facility, Rescue Rovers operates entirely through the help of over 200 dedicated volunteers who take in dogs from shelters to help them acclimate to family life and learn basic obedience until they can be found a forever home. At any given time, between 100–150 dogs are in being taken care of by the team of caring fosters. 

“In the last five years, we’ve adopted out almost 7,000 dogs,” said Vicki Cioni, whose daughter formed the group with friends. “So many of the shelters here in Utah are going no-kill and we helped with that. We had volunteers who attended meeting and really pressed it to make Salt Lake no-kill shelters.”

Not only are the dogs vetted through serious testing like medical holds, vaccinations, check-ups, spay, neutering and microchipping, but potential foster and adoptive parents are also screened through an application process and meet-and-greets. Trainers will also work with behavior problems before the dogs are made available for adoption. 

“Most of our dogs are really people friendly and it’s almost like they know you’ve saved their lives,” said Cioni. 

Purbaugh and her mom, Wanda Brown, have had their four-and-half-month-old Chihuahua puppy, Wanton, for around two months and were at the event to try to find Wanton the perfect home. Brown had been fostering for different groups around Salt Lake for years when she first heard of Rescue Rovers four years ago, and found them to be organized and good with their dogs and foster parents. She started taking in puppies shortly after. 

“I mainly take pit bull puppies because they get a bad rap and I like to give them their basic obedience before they go out to their home so people can see just how good they are,” said Brown. “Aspen loves puppies and I’m trying to teach her to be a responsible pet owner.”

Purbaugh said her favorite type of dog is a pug because of their smooshy faces and loves getting to interact with so many types of dogs.

“My favorite part about fostering is that you get to snuggle with dogs,” said Purbaugh.

This week, Rescue Rovers worked in conjunction with Best Friends Animal Shelter and CAWS (community animal wefare society) to take in dogs saved from the shelters in Houston to make space for displaced pets in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Rescue Rovers was able to take 12 of the dogs brought up from Texas, with 50–60 of their volunteers ready to step up and take them. Several Salt Lake shelters were also able to open up kennels to help get the dogs into families. 

Rescue Rovers holds several adoption events a month, including special events from Northern Utah to Cedar City such as Traverse Mountain Outlets, Cabela’s and the opening of the new pet-friendly outdoor patio at California Pizza Kitchen at Fashion Place Mall. 

For information about fostering or adopting a dog or to donate to Rescue Rovers, visit