The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the first humane society to be established in North America, estimates around 6.5 million animals enter animals shelters every year.

Of those 6.5 million, 3.3 million are dogs and 3.2 million are cats.

While on the decline since 2011 – numbers reached 7.2 million then – the overall statistics are still lending to shortages in most shelters across the U.S.

ASPCA explains some of that decrease as an increase in adoptions – 3.2 million each year – and 710,000 being returned to their owners.

For those interested, there are many options when it come to adopting animals across the state of Arkansas.

One of those resources is Last Chance Arkansas, a local nonprofit animal rescue organization which dedicates itself to rescuing animals from shelters and other poor living conditions in and around central Arkansas.

The group goes through a careful screening process to match these animals with their forever homes, working with committed volunteers veterinarians, fosters and trainers to also provide health care and temporary housing.

“We also serve as a resource to our community and local pet owners by providing education and information on responsible pet ownership including the importance of spay/neuter, positive behavior training and good nutrition,” the group’s Facebook page reads.

Conway’s Kari Naylor and her family have been working with Last Chance for years.

When Kari’s 11-year-old daughter, Emily, first asked for a second dog, they weren’t ready. The mother said they just didn’t have time in their busy schedule to dedicate to that endeavor. In the end, the family decided fostering was the way to go.

In October 2018, they took in their first pet.

It wasn’t long though before the group was attached, officially adopting the pet that December, a “foster fail,” Kari called it.

In total, they’ve fostered around four or five dogs through Last Chance, helping each find their forever homes, Emily even getting the opportunity to meet the family beforehand, eager to know each were going to their best home.

Kari described her daughter as having extreme empathy, which can be both good and bad, but when the young girl shared her “themed” birthday request with her mom, she wasn’t surprised at all.

For some, birthdays tend to be about cake and presents, that “me me me” favor there, but for Emily, it was about more.

While there would be those friends and family focused aspects like the cake and presents, the other side of the event would also include dogs up for adoption.

Kari said when Emily shared the idea with her, she contacted the nonprofit.

“I contacted Last Chance and said, ‘Can we do it?’ and they said, ‘Absolutely,’” she said.

The Naylors created a Facebook event for the party, put up fliers advertising the day around Conway and began making little take home toys for all dogs in attendance.

“What a great idea for a party, thank you Emily for the four pawed party parting gifts you will have for those needing a furry best friend,” a Facebook user wrote in regards to the event.

Kari said they had close family and friends who came to celebrate Emily but also hoped a lot of people would come for the cause.

Kari told the Log Cabin Democrat she made sure to talk with her daughter about her expectations – she hoped every dog that came would leave with a family – as well as the application and reference process.

The Naylors held the birthday party on June 29 at Laurel Park in Conway.

“It went great,” Kari told the Log Cabin Democrat.

She said, in total, seven dogs were adopted that day.

“A big happy birthday to Emily Naylor who chose an adoption event for LCA [Last Chance Arkansas] vs. the traditional birthday party,” the nonprofit posted to its Facebook June 29 at 4:34 p.m. “What a sweetheart that girl is [and] thank you to everyone who came out to Laurel Park today. A few families completed an adoption application in advance, which was perfect. If all goes well, it appears that seven stray pups found their fabulous forever homes today.

The post continues and states that three of those seven were Paws in Prison graduates too.

“Thank you, friends, for choosing rescue,” LCA’s post reads.

In addition, LCA also announced that an anonymous donor also committed to donating two complimentary one-hour training sessions with Heel by Steven Neal for every dog that was adopted during the Saturday birthday event.

“What a great way to begin a new journey with a new dog, right,” LCA officials said.

For anyone interested in starting the process to adopt, begin the application at www.lastchancear.org.