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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Best Friends Animal Society and the Humane Society of Utah walk around Gateway with their invisible dogs in Salt Lake City Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011. The goal was to capture the public's attention with the iconic invisible dog leash--each leash representing a homeless dog--in hopes of putting the odds in favor of that dog getting adopted.

SALT LAKE CITY — Costumed canines were everywhere and nowhere Sunday afternoon at The Gateway.

A few dozen volunteers with Best Friends Animal Society and the Humane Society of Utah walked around the downtown shopping center holding wire leashes attached to costumes and collars.

For one afternoon, at least, the 1970s-era "invisible dogs" were back in style.

The "dog" walkers' goal was to call attention to the hundreds of thousands of real but unseen dogs waiting to be adopted in animal shelters across the nation.

"There are so many wonderful, adorable dogs up for adoption at shelters and in rescue groups," said Temma Martin of Best Friends Animal Society. "We feel that people aren't as aware of them as they could be."

At its heart, the Best Friends' Invisible Dogs campaign was an adoption program, Martin said. The spectacle of a group of invisible dogs out for a Sunday stroll was created to encourage shoppers to ask questions.

"When they ask, 'What are you doing?' We're going to ask them to start seeing invisible dogs and to check their local shelters for a pet to adopt," Martin said.

Prospective pet owners often don't realize the extent of options available — including pure-bred dogs — at animal shelters, she said.

Martin encourages those looking to add a furry family member to visit Petfinder, an online searchable database of animals that need homes.

For more information about Best Friends Animal Society's Invisible Dogs campaign, visit www.invisibledogs.org.

E-mail: jpage@desnews.com