Penny Williams was looking for a dog to adopt and on Saturday the Sun City West woman was in the right place to find a new friend.

Hundreds of animals of all shapes and sizes sniffed and barked the day away at the Phoenix Pet Expo at the University of Phoenix Stadium.

“My husband and I are looking for a small dog to adopt,” Williams said. “I thought this might be a great place to come to visit with some shelters.”

Williams is a lover of dogs, and she gets her dogs from shelters or rescue operations.

“We’ve owned dogs for many, many years, and we’ve never been ones to just go out and buy a dog from a store,” she said. “Not when there are so many animals out there in need of homes.”

There were certainly plenty of rescue groups from which to choose —  54, to be exact, ranging from breed-specific dog rescues to tarantula rescues.

Terri Wood, president and founder of the Arizona Pug Adoption & Rescue Network, said events such as the Pet Expo are invaluable opportunities for rescue groups and shelters.

“The last couple of years have been hard on everybody,” she said. “With the economy the way it is, there are more rescue animals, they are staying longer, adoptions are down. So many groups have closed their doors to new rescues. We’re doing everything we can to avoid that, but it is hard.”

Jo Ann Street, a member of APARN, said the kind of exposure they get at the Pet Expo is priceless.

“Obviously that is huge for us,” she said. “When you set up at smaller events or just on your own, a lot of times people will just walk by. But everyone who is here came here for the same reason and that means we get to speak with thousands of people. In fact, I believe last year this event brought us more adoptions than any other.”

This year APARN had 75 pugs available at the Pet Expo. Wood said she had high hopes for all of them.

“We had 11 adoptions last year, and I think we can do even better,” she said.

Lois Lang of Peoria was walking through the exhibits Saturday with a modest goal in mind.

“I became handicapped recently,” she said. “I want to donate some of my time, maybe an hour a week, to help out a shelter. I can’t do much, maybe just be there to visit, to pet the animals, but I want to do something.”

Lang said she owns a dog and would like to own another, but worries she would be physically unable to handle it.

“But I’m a dog lover,” she said. “I always said when I retired I would volunteer at a shelter. I would help in some way. So that’s why I’m here.”

Lang left with a purse full of business cards for local shelters and a smile on her face.

“And I should say I’m here with three other people looking to volunteer, as well,” she said. “We all just want to do what we can.”

Jeff Dempsey may be reached at 623-876-2531 or

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