By Annika Tomlin

The Arizona Animal Welfare League is carrying on the legacy and message of actress Amanda Blake by hosting An Evening to Paws: Mutt Gala on Sunday, March 7, at the Omni Montelucia Resort in Scottsdale. 

The “Gunsmoke” star founded the nonprofit nearly 50 years ago along with a small group of volunteers who adopted rescue cats and dogs from foster homes. It has since grown to become the state’s largest and oldest no-kill shelter. 

The Mutt Gala is inspired by the glamorous Met Ball held annually in New York. When guests arrive, they will enter on the pink carpet and have their photographs taken by the pup-arrazi. Evening wear is recommended. 

It’s a visually stunning evening filled with live entertainment, a seated, multicoursed dinner, silent auction, adoptable puppies and signature cocktails within the luxurious Omni Montelucia. 

“This is not your rubber chicken kind of dinner,” says Judith Gardner, president and CEO of AAWL.

Mutt Gala attendees will enjoy the live entertainment by Guy Pennacchio and his quartet singing Frank Sinatra-inspired tunes. 

Each year An Evening to Paws Gala honors someone who has aided the organization. This year the honoree chairman is Dr. Shanti Jha, an orthopedic and soft tissue specialist with Animal Medical & Surgical Center of North Scottsdale. 

“We take all of our really, really tough cases to him,” Gardner says. 

“We had a little chihuahua who had the smallest legs you’ve ever seen in your life. They were like toothpicks and he did orthopedic surgery on that dog. We don’t know where he got the instruments small enough to do it.”

Jha has also done a complete hip replacement on a Great Dance and two airway-based surgeries on backyard breeder dogs who had trouble breathing. 

“He’s done incredible surgeries that are far beyond our capacity to do (at AAWL),” Gardner says.

Fox 10’s Emmy-nominated reporter and evening weather anchor Kristy Siefkin will return as emcee. A true animal lover, Siefkin adopted her own furry friend from AAWL. 

“She does it for us a lot,” Gardner says. “Not only does she emcee, but she is really a big supporter of ours. Her parents come every year to the event. She just really believes in the cause which makes a difference.”

The AAWL is a full-service animal welfare organization and a leader in innovative behavior training. It provides medical care through its onsite, low-cost veterinary clinic; adoptions; education and community outreach programs. The kennels have a separate cattery, and there’s a training center and freestanding infirmary. 

The AAWL helps rural shelters around the state by bringing in animals from their facilities and returning with blankets or food. By working with 32 partners around Arizona, AAWL helps a wider range of animals then it could at its single facility.

Proceeds from the AAWL An Evening to Paws: Mutt Gala helps to fund the operations of the state’s largest and oldest no-kill shelter, which rehomes, rehabilitates and rescues more than 4000 animals across Arizona. This event gives more dogs and cats a chance at a long happy and healthy life. ν

An Evening to Paws: Mutt Gala, Omni Montelucia Resort and Spa, 4949 E. Lincoln Drive, Scottsdale, 6 to 10 p.m. Sunday, March 7,, $250; tables available.