Mandy Roth/The Explorer, A woman exits the Humane Society of Southern Arizona's new animal shelter, Pawsh, last Thursday during a Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce ribbon-cutting ceremony. Pawsh, located in the La Encantada shopping center, looks to transform the traditional view of animal shelters by creating a more customer-friendly environment.

The Humane Society of Southern Arizona has found a new place to adopt animals and sell merchandise.

Last Thursday, the society cut the ribbon on Pawsh, its new adoption center and store at the La Encantada shopping center.

Pawsh is a vanguard for establishing a new image for animal shelters, with its posh setting and friendly feel of a regular pet store.

"Looks like a fancy boutique on the outside, but every fiber supports the mission of rescuing, protecting and saving hundreds of animals in Southern Arizona," said Sheena Stewart, community relations manager for the Humane Society of Southern Arizona.

"We like to think of ourselves in the forefront of shifting negative perceptions of shelters and changing the culture in shopping for pets," she said.

Pawsh is the second satellite location for the 66-year-old society. The first satellite location, in the Park Place Mall, also plays up the shelter-chic atmosphere of the pet adoption center.

"We want to encourage the adoption of pets instead of purchasing," Stewart said. "So we're taking the elements of a pet store and bringing it to the people."

Stewart said traditional animal stores can be uninviting to the public for having a melancholic reputation. "Shelters can be sad, and people may not be emotionally strong enough to go in," she said.

The Humane Society for Southern Arizona is a private non-profit organization funded through donations and grants. Last year, the society placed approximately 800 pets with owners.

Pawsh will house mostly dogs and cats, with the occasional bird. Several mall workers have volunteered to walk the dogs during their lunch breaks.

"We're continuing to grow and change the culture of pet shopping," Stewart said. "Adopt versus purchase."

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