Lucky, a docile pit bull mix, took a tour of the new pet adoption center in Old City and seemed most fascinated by the windows - more precisely, by what was on the other side.

People. Cars. Dogs on leashes. Life, basically.

And the people strolling by the storefront at Second and Arch Streets couldn't help but stop and check out the cute doggie in the window.

That's the idea.

Next month, the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) will open what it hopes will be the first of several "boutique" sites around the city designed to encourage pet adoptions.

As people peered through one of the large windows on Arch at Lucky and his wagging tail, PAWS chief executive officer Tara Derby could barely contain her excitement.

"This is why the adoption center is very cool," she said.

PAWS is the fund-raising and outreach arm of the Philadelphia Animal Care and Control Association, which is contracted by the city to cage and euthanize stray and unwanted animals.

The association has been successful in boosting the number of adoptions in the last few years. In 2004, it recorded 3,433. So far this year: 7,475 through November.

Though the number of animals that have been euthanized has dropped accordingly, the figure remains substantial. In the first nine months of 2007, the shelter put 8,640 cats and dogs to sleep.

The shelter, in a dreary industrial stretch of Feltonville, is a depressing place for people and animals alike.

"It's not a place of optimism," Derby said.

The satellite center at Second and Arch - which feels like a small shop and is tentatively set to open Jan. 17 - will be bright and inviting, "a place where people will want to come," she said.

PAWS will continue to hold weekend adoption events at places such as pet-supply stores.

The Old City center will have the capacity for four dogs and 35 cats. A video surveillance system will "dissuade those who don't want to be nice citizens to the building and those in the building," Derby said.

The rented space cost more than $30,000 to renovate, and would have cost much more if not for a lot of donations and discounts - and $200,000 a year to operate, said Melissa Levy, director of development for PAWS. All the funds come from private contributions.

The center will be open seven days a week, probably from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Derby said.

Cuddly little dogs that usually get adopted quickly will remain at the main shelter, so the adoption center can show off bigger dogs like Lucky that often are put to sleep because no one will take them.

"What we envision," Derby said, is an adoption center "where not 10, not hundreds, but thousands of animals leave every year from this site and go into forever-loving homes."

Contact staff writer Robert Moran at 215-854-5983 or bmoran@phillynews.com.