A fun educational morning of playing with puppies and kittens could save thousands of animals from the euthanasia list this year.

The Arizona Animal Welfare League (AAWL) is hosting a baby shower to show off its puppies and kittens up for adoption, gather items for puppies and kittens who are in foster homes, teach kids about how to care for animals, and also teach people about fostering.

"I think people have the wrong idea about fostering and we want to turn that perception around," said Shannon Blizzard, director of shelter operations for AAWL. "Lots of people love animals and want to help but they can't adopt or they don't feel like they have the funds to donate. Fostering is a great alternative. We take care of all the costs; we just need someone to put up the space.

"The more foster parents we have the more animals we can save."

Often the shelter gets puppies and kittens who are too young to be in a shelter environment. In order to give them a better chance the shelter sends them to live with families until they're old enough to be adopted.

Blizzard said Maricopa County has the highest number of free roaming cats in the country. That means this time of year there are tons of baby kittens who need shelter. AAWL counts on its foster program to provide that shelter.

"We save lives," said Jerry Pederson, an Ahwatukee Foothills resident who fosters puppies. "If these animals can't get adopted out through the shelter they're going to get euthanized through the county. Thousands of animals are euthanized every year."

Pederson said he began fostering about two-and-a-half years ago when his dog passed away. He was able to build an area in his garage that has access to the backyard. In the time he has been fostering he has seen about 11 litters of anywhere between two to eight puppies.

Usually the mother comes along too and helps feed and take care of the puppies for the first month of their lives. When it's time for them to go Pederson keeps track of the puppies on AAWL's website and smiles whenever he sees one of them get adopted.

"That gives me a good feeling that they got a new home," Pederson said. "They bring a lot of joy and friendship to people's lives. I love having animals around. I would recommend it to anybody."

The event won't only be about fostering. There will be puppies and kittens to play with and the shelter will be open for adoptions. Those who bring an item to donate will be entered into a raffle.

There will also be a craft for kids, face painting and exotic pets for kids to learn about. There will be bite prevention demonstrations and classes on how to introduce kids to a new pet.

"AAWL relies on the support of the community because we are a non profit," said Michelle Ramos, director of education for AAWL. "Now that it's coming to be spring time all the baby animals are being born, especially kittens. We're looking for new families that are willing to help bring these animals into their homes so we can save more lives, in addition to helping us with the items and the costs.

"In addition to that, if people have children in their homes, bringing them out and educating them so they can learn how to properly handle and care for animals, that's all a part of it. We want it to be a family affair. We want a pet, if it goes into a home, to be in a well-rounded family. We want every member to know what to do and how to take care of them."

The event will take place on Saturday, May 14, from 9 a.m. to noon at AAWL and SPCA, 30 N. 40th Place in Phoenix. There is no cost to get in.

Items the shelter needs are human baby food, meat only, Ebsilac (powdered puppy formula), KMR (powdered kitten formula), Royal Canin Babycat 34 and Kitten 36, and Purina Kitten Chow.

To find out more, visit aawl.org.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com

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