Pets Alive in NY Partners with Santa to Promote Christmas Adoptions

You know how sometimes there’s an idea that starts out good but then it snowballs into a dirty blob?  For example, it’s a good idea to spread the word about keeping your cats indoors on Halloween.  There are all sorts of comings and goings, kids traipsing around the neighborhood at night and yes – there is a tiny minority of people who are going to do tricks instead of treats and you don’t want your cat to be used in someone’s idea of a prank.  Somehow this good idea got dirty blobbed into “shelters and rescue groups must not adopt out black cats near Halloween because Satanists want to sacrifice them in bloody rituals”.

Another one surrounds the notion that people should be aware of the responsibilities of pet ownership and avoid giving a pet as a Christmas gift to someone who might not want a pet or who might be allergic, or who might be under the impression that it’s fine if they aren’t home for 12 hours a day because a puppy can wait until they get home for a potty break.  This is a good, common sense message to promote.  But over time, this one got dirty blobbed into “shelters and rescue groups must not adopt out pets as Christmas gifts because the only people who would get a pet as a Christmas gift are those who will put him on a chain in the backyard on December 26 and leave him there until the day he dies”.

Any policy which denies a home to a shelter pet based on arbitrary criteria such as “It’s Halloween” or “The pet will be given as a Christmas gift” needs to be dirty blobbed into oblivion.  As long as you are conducting your normal, common sense screening of adopters and asking the appropriate questions in order to ensure a potentially good match, it shouldn’t matter whether it’s a holiday or not.

It’s understandable that shelters and rescues want to avoid so-called impulse adoptions which might not be a good fit.  That’s why the normal screening process of applicants is important – to weed out those negative impulses which by the way, can occur at any time of the year.  It’s good to remember too, as Bonney Brown pointed out in her seminar at the No Kill Conference this year, that people can have positive impulses.  Running into a burning building to save a baby is a positive impulse.

I was glad to see that Pets Alive in NY is offering to make adopting a pet as a Christmas gift easy and fun – in a very responsible way:

If you are a parent and you have already told Santa it is ok for your children to receive a pet this holiday season all you need to do is fill out our application, get approved, come down and select your pet (within a week of the holiday). Pets Alive will tell Santa and we will drive up to your house on Christmas morning, (with the Pets Alive MAGIC BUS) and knock on your door.

::door opens, little boy looks up. There we stand in Santa hat, with clipboard, big MAGIC BUS behind us::

Us: “Hello, is this the house of Susie and Timmy So-and-So?”

Little Boy:
“Yes. This is. I am Timmy So-and-So”.

Us: “Well, Timmy, get your sister, because we have a very special delivery from Santa for the two of you!!”

::We turn, whistle and out of the bus comes Santa’s Elf with Fido!! ::

Us: “Timmy and Susie – Santa asked us to take care of your new dog, Fido. He stopped by Pets Alive so that Fido didn’t sit under the tree in a box all night! He asked us to deliver him to you this morning! Merry Christmas Timmy and Susie from Santa and Pets Alive! ….. and Merry Christmas to YOU , Fido, for you my sweet little furry friend, have finally  found your forever home!”

I love this idea.  Every year some parents are going to give the kids the pet they’ve been asking for as a Christmas gift.  If shelters and rescues refuse to allow adoptions of pets as holiday gifts, they are driving parents to alternate sources to buy the pet – and probably turning them off shelter adoption permanently.  Pets Alive is employing their normal screening practices to ensure a good potential match between pet and family and making it easy for the parent to save a life while giving the kids the present of their dreams.  No pet store salesman or flea market vendor is going to hold your pet for you until Christmas morning and then show up in a Santa hat – but Pets Alive will!

Good on you Pets Alive for thinking outside the box.  I would love to see this idea catch on with other shelters and rescue groups.  Some number of responsible people are going to give pets as Christmas gifts this year.  Refusing to allow adoptions at Christmas will not change that fact but it will deny the pets in your shelter a chance at a good home.  Why not consider each applicant on their individual merits and see if breaking the mold can get more of your pets into homes this holiday season?


17 thoughts on “Pets Alive in NY Partners with Santa to Promote Christmas Adoptions

  1. That is an adorable idea.

    The only modification I would make is they should mention what the program does at the beginning. It takes awhile to get to the punch line, so to speak.

  2. “If shelters and rescues refuse to allow adoptions of pets as holiday gifts, they are driving parents to alternate sources to buy the pet – and probably turning them off shelter adoption permanently.”

    I have to disagree with this. If a person is truly interested in adopting dog X, what does it matter if they get the dog Dec 28th instead of Dec 25th? If they are not willing to wait an extra three days, that says a lot about the adopter to begin with.

    Thankfully dogs who are with rescues are already in loving foster homes, so there is no deadline or timeframe as to when they need to leave. If shelters want to adopt on Christmas, then so be it. But I think it’s up to each rescue, and I would never fault anyone for how they choose to handle Christmas adoptions.

    If a three day wait is going to turn someone off adoption or send them to a breeder or Kijiji, they were never a good match to begin with.

    Just my two cents.

    1. Not all rescues are exclusively foster homes. I volunteer at Pets Alive and I know that many of their dogs are in runs on the property – nice spacious ones outside in the summer, I don’t know what the winter inside ones look like since I volunteer with the cats. That’s also why I don’t know about their dog foster program although I do know they have one. So while they do have a good life for as long as it takes it is still not as nice as being in an actual home with an actual family.

      Also while each animal can take as much time as needed to find a home there is a limited amount of space there. Every animal that is adopted out frees up a space for a new animal to come in. For rescues that are not open admission (which is most of them right now) there are more people requesting they take animals then ones adopting them. So while three days might not mean that much to you or me it means a whole lot to that animal that needs to be adopted or pulled in that time or else they will be killed.


    2. “If a three day wait is going to turn someone off adoption or send them to a breeder or Kijiji, they were never a good match to begin with.”

      But they could have been a good match. After all, in this hypothetical scenario, they went to a shelter first. They wanted to save a pet’s life. If the shelter refuses to work with them simply b/c they want the pet for Christmas and they turn to another source for the pet, that’s one less cage at the shelter freed up. It’s one more home turned off of shelter adoption. And it’s however many friends/family members of this person who hear a negative shelter experience and are influenced to look elsewhere for their next pet.

      We are trying to get more people to adopt from shelters. We are trying to get them in any way we can to see if they might be a good fit. The ones who walk in off the street on their own without us having to bust our tails trying to find them – they are a GIFT! Let’s not turn them away based solely on an arbitrary rule about pets as Christmas gifts. Let’s welcome them in, get to know them and see if they seem like a good match for a pet. If they are, let’s do what it takes to free up that pet’s cage so another pet can have it.

      Let’s adopt to the people who want to save a shelter pet’s life unless there is a compelling reason not to which is based upon something specific to that adopter’s qualifications.

      1. This…absolutely. There are plenty of people who want to get a pet and whose kids are asking for one who specifically DECIDE they’re going to do it as a Christmas thing. It makes it special for those kids to think Santa brought them their dog or cat.

        I think what Pets Alive is doing is wonderful. Plenty of those people WILL be waiting. They’ll pick out their pet some time BEFORE Christmas and have to wait UNTIL Christmas to have it. I understand the concern of impulse purchases but there are plenty of ways around that.

        Thanks for this great post!

  3. I LOVE the Pets Alive Santa Paws idea!!

    And I have to add, if the shelter adopting out pets has done a good job of NOT alienating people and expressing that they are available to help, people will be much more likely to contact the shelter if they need assistance or if circumstances are such that the best alternative is to surrender the pet.

  4. I am standing with you on this one as some really excellent adopters are just hell bent on “Santa” bringing the pet. I speak from experience, formerly opposed to the whole dog under the tree scenerio I am now clearly of the team under the right circumstances it will be OK. I was at an adoption event with a foster puppy and came face-to-face with what I thought was my worst nightmare family. Mom, Dad, Grandparents (gasp!) spending winters in the in-law suite on a golf course community. They were hell bent on adopting MY puppy and boarding her for three weeks until Christmas Eve so Santa could deliver her. I immediately started to laundry list the reasons MY puppy would not be right for them, hell NO puppy would be right for them, they were pure evil!! To make my long story even longer, MY puppy was being fostered through an Animal Control agency with basically NO adopter hoops to jump thruough, other than NOT being drunk at the time of adoption and NO history of animal cruelty… They were getting MY baby like it or lump it, so I lumped it and offered to hold her until they were ready. In my heart I really hoped it was one of those dreaded impulse adoptions and they would lose my number as the holiday hustle and bustle ramped up. No such luck, they rang me every friggin day!! Mom, Dad and Grandparents were diligent about getting to know MY puppy. We went to the house three times a week while the kids were at school, she immediately pee-peed the carpet and I thought you go girl – no really poop too so they will change their minds. Nope, they cleaned it up and wanted to know if she was too young to add a few playdates with the neighborhood dogs. These meeting went on for three weeks and I finally realized this was her home. The real boo-hoo moment came at the local pet supply store where we had her photo taken with Santa surrounded by an assortment of leashes, collars, coats, toys and treats. I did the Santa Hat delivery on Christmas morning with a note and photo from Santa. I have no regets because My Puppy walked in like she owned the place and 6 years later she still does.

    1. This is a great story, Charlotte, and I’m guessing those kids were thrilled. I have to say, as an adopter, I can’t imagine anything more delightful than a Christmas pet. Although a pet at any time of year is a wonderful thing, there’s something so special about that day. And if the giver thought of the adoption option first, that’s even better — it’s in the true spirit of the holiday. I really like the idea of shelters and rescues working with the giver to make sure the experience goes well and is as right as it can be for all concerned, including and especially the pet who will be finding a home. The adoption would be more likely to be successful (like the one you describe) and, as a result of the good feelings, everyone involved would also be more likely to adopt in the future, so it would spread the joy forward, so to speak. Adoption is like any other customer service experience, only far, far more special.

  5. On Dec 24, 2010, we delivered a lab mix puppy to a family, just as this article suggests. In September 2011 the dog was returned to us – now 50 lbs and chewing stuff up. Not so cute any more. We just yesterday re-adopted that dog, hopefully to a permanent home. We won’t be doing any more Christmas adoptions.

    1. Did you ever adopt out a dog who was later returned besides this pup? If so, have you sworn off adopting out dogs ever again on they day that dog was originally adopted? It would only make sense if your policy is one adoption failure=never again on that day.

  6. I love the idea, my husband adopted a lab mix puppy for me over five years ago, still the best Christmas present I’ve ever gotten.
    Sure, some people will end up not being perfect pet people, but that happens when people adopt in June or August as well.
    The good thing for us was we have time off around Christmas. Most people do, it gave us time to spend round the clock with the puppy and it made life easier on all of us.

  7. The shelter where I volunteer has approx 8% return rate on dogs, regardless of the time of year. Yesterday, I noted one pup has an adoption confirmation card on his den and the date for pick up is 12/21. I guess that will be a Christmas pup. I think Nathan had the right idea with this… any time is the right time to encourage people to adopt. Funny hats, feather boas, whatever it takes. Even down at the mall in empty store fronts.

  8. My only problem with the post is telling people it’s a good idea to run into a burning building to save a baby. I know it was just an example but it is a dangerous one.

    My cousin was killed in a house fire. She went back inside to find her sister. They both died. Carmen was revived by firefighters and spent a week on life support in the burn unit. Till her family came to terms with the fact that she wasn’t going to get better, her lungs were to badly burned. She was a honor student at UBC (university of British Columbia) studying criminal forensics.

    There is no point risking your life to save a dead body. My boyfriend is a firefighter and he is always telling me that. Its hard to hear but its true. My cousin died trying to save her sister who was probably dead or dying before she entered the building. A crying baby is just filling their lungs with burning gases, if you go inside those gases will kill you to.

  9. My shelter used to be super anti-gift adoption (for all the reasons listed above). We’ve since moved towards more leniency because studies show that people that receive a pet as a gift tend to actually be a little MORE attached to the animal because of the association with the person that actually gave the gift.
    Giving a suprise pet as a gift still probably isn’t the best idea, but we can help that to be successful by talking with the potential owner, etc (and heck- gift certificates are always a good solution too).

    That being said- i think this Santa idea is super cute

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