How Some Shelters are Saving More Lives During the Holiday Season

When you open your heart and home to a shelter animal during the holiday season you are not only saving a life, you’re also creating a special memory, especially for small children. That’s how Kay Hyman, director of community engagement at the Charleston Animal Society, feels about giving pets as holiday gifts.

“I remember vividly my father surprising my mom with her very first dog,” Hyman said. “We were caring for the puppy in secret and then put him under the tree. That is such a fond memory for me and could very well have contributed to my career path.”

Adopting Pets as Holiday Gifts Helps Find Them Loving Homes

Today, Hyman and other staff and volunteers at the Charleston Animal Society enjoy playing the role of Santa’s helpers when they deliver shelter dogs and cats as gifts on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The Homes for the Holidays campaign is one of the most successful and popular programs at the shelter with volunteers clamoring to play the role of elves. It’s also helped place approximately 100 homeless dogs and cats into loving families since its inception in 2013.

There’s been a long-held belief among the public and many in the animal welfare community that it’s not a good idea to adopt pets as gifts. According to the ASPCA, these policies are likely based on the belief that animals who weren’t specifically chosen by their new owners may be considered less valuable. In addition, many shelter communities believe that adopted pets given as gifts are at a higher risk of being returned.

However several studies have debunked these myths. The most recent was conducted by the ASPCA in 2013. This study found that 96 percent of people who received pets as gifts thought that it either increased or had no impact on their love or attachment to those pets.  Additionally, 86 percent of the pets referred to in the study are still in the home. The study also found that there was no difference in a recipient’s attachment to a pet whether the gift was a surprise or known in advance.

This has certainly been the experience at the Charleston Animal Society as well as at other shelters that promote pets as holiday gifts including the Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society, the Arizona Humane Society and the Wisconsin Humane Society. All of the shelters follow the usual adoption process when adopting pets as part of their holiday gift programs making sure to record the name, address and contact information for the gift recipients.

charlestonanimalsociety5A Charleston Animal Society elf surprises a young girl with the gift of a kitten/Photo courtesy of the Charleston Animal Society

“The face of sheltering is changing every day and we all have to embrace new, exciting and different ways of helping animals,” Hyman said. “Our Homes for the Holidays program is an awesome opportunity for us to place more animals into loving homes.”

Volunteer Elves Make Deliveries Special

The Homes for the Holidays program gets underway on Dec 16 when people come to the Charleston shelter to choose a pet and a delivery time slot. About two-thirds of the pet gift deliveries are for small children while other pets are typically gifted to a boyfriend or girlfriend or to a spouse.

When it comes to adopting a pet as a gift for someone who doesn’t live in your family, Hyman said you have to make sure that the recipient is willing and able to care for a pet. If for some reason a family can’t take a new pet into the home over the holiday season, she suggests giving a stuffed animal along with an adoption gift certificate.

On delivery days a stream  of vehicles driven by volunteer elves leaves the shelter with dogs dressed in holiday bandanas or caps and jackets while cat crates are decorated for the season. The elves, dressed for the part, also take along gift bags or holiday stockings filled with toys and treats for the lucky dogs and cats.

charlestonanimalsociety1A Charleston Animal Society Elf gets a kiss from a puppy excited to be going home for the holidays/Photo courtesy of the Charleston Animal Society

“When we are delivering pets to small children we tell them that Santa was worried the dogs or cats would be afraid or cold on the sleigh so he was delivering them with the help of elves,” Hyman said.

One of her most memorable deliveries was to an older man who had lost his Labrador three years before and couldn’t bring himself to get another dog. His wife visited the shelter and saw an older female Labrador that she knew would be a perfect match for her husband.

“We drove way out into the country to make that delivery,” Hyman said. “As soon as the husband opened the door and saw the dog he started to cry. This man just needed someone to give him the gift of a dog so that he could open his heart again.”

Related Stories:

 

Photo credit: Thinkstock

81 comments

Marie W
Marie W14 days ago

Thanks for sharing

SEND
Sue H
Sue H2 months ago

Bright Blessings.

SEND
Jerome S
Jerome S3 months ago

thanks

SEND
Jerome S
Jerome S3 months ago

thanks

SEND
Jim V
Jim V3 months ago

thanks for sharing

SEND
Jim V
Jim V3 months ago

thanks for sharing

SEND
natasha p
Past Member 4 months ago

sweet!

SEND
Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa6 months ago

Thank you

SEND
Jim Ven
Jim V6 months ago

thanks

SEND
Jim Ven
Jim V6 months ago

thanks

SEND