It’s Hip to Snip! Helping Feral Cats in Greater Boston

How Spaying and Neutering Feral Cats Prevents Animal Homelessness

Do you know a “neighborhood cat?” Maybe there’s a familiar feline around the city streets near your work or around your block? One that you see roaming around abandoned buildings, restaurants or dumpsters?

Often these cats are known as “feral.”  They have either lived for an extended period of time with little or no human contact or away from human contact long enough to revert to a wild state.  As a result, they cannot easily adapt back to living indoors with people as pets.

feral cat clinic volunteer

A volunteer checks on a feral cat waking up from spay/neuter surgery during a Fall ARL Fix-A-Feral clinic

Sometimes these cats have been abandoned or put outside by previous owners.  Other times they are the offspring of stray or other feral cats.

While ferals tend to avoid human contact because they aren’t properly socialized, they often live in cat colonies in close proximity to humans.  Especially during the winter when food supplies can be scarce, they frequently rely on people to provide them with food.  Dedicated volunteers around the state feed, monitor, and support many – but not all – colonies.

“There are several feral cat colonies all around Massachusetts,” says Maryann Regan, the ARL’s director of shelter operations. “These colonies grow in numbers when owned cats who are not spayed or neutered are put outdoors or abandoned.  Their offspring have offspring, the cycle continues, and the number of feral cats grows.”

Spaying and neutering feral cats is an important part of solving the problem of animal homelessness.

According to Maryann, “studies have shown that humanely trapping, spaying/neutering, and releasing–or what people in animal welfare call ‘TNR’–feral cats back to the colonies where they have been living is one of the most effective ways to decrease the number of homeless animals in our community.”

feral cat friendly

The ARL evaluates all cats during the clinic to find “friendlies,” stray cats who could re-adjust to living with people as pets.

Thanks to a generous donation from an anonymous donor in 2013, the ARL launched Fix-a-Feral clinics to spay and neuter feral cats in Greater Boston.   During the clinics, cats receive a behavioral screening to identify any “friendlies,” stray cats who have more recently joined a colony.  With support from our shelter staff, the friendlies have a very good chance of getting used to living indoors with people again and finding a new home.

In addition to getting spayed or neutered, cats going through the clinic also receive vaccines and other medical attention as necessary.

In 2014, over 250 feral cats in the greater Boston area came through our TNR clinics.  Our Spay Waggin’ also spays and neuters feral cats on the South Shore and Cape Cod, where sizable colonies also exist.

This winter has been especially hard on feral cats in our community, and you can help!

  • Donate cat food for feral cat caretakers during our Cat Food Drive on March 14 and 15
  • Learn how to build a warm and protective feral cat shelter
  • Volunteer during an ARL Fix-a-Feral clinic this spring

IT’S HIP TO SNIP SPAY/NEUTER FACT: In one year, an unspayed female cat can have as many as 6 litters of kittens.   Spay/neuter efforts for feral animals not only decrease the number of homeless animals born each year, but they also reduce or eliminate unwanted “nuisance” behaviors such as fighting, yowling, and spraying. 


ARL Joins City of Boston Animal Control Commission

Maryann Regan to serve on important animal welfare group

Late last week, Maryann Regan, the ARL’s director of shelter operations, received a letter announcing her appointment by the Mayor to the City of Boston’s Animal Control Commission. The Mayor convened the commission to ensure continued forward progress on animal care and control in the City.

After bringing concerning conditions at the Boston Animal Control facility in Roslindale to the attention of Mayor Walsh this summer, the ARL has continued to support the City’s reform efforts.

Maryann Regan signing

Maryann Regan signing after taking the Oath of Office

Yesterday, we followed Maryann to Boston City Hall where she completed the swearing in process. We’re happy to announce Maryann along with eight others are now officially members of the Animal Control Commission!

Members of the Animal Control Commission will meet at least once a month to coordinate the work of public and private agencies concerned with animal care, protection, and control. They will also establish and maintain a spay and neuter clinic within the city. For more information on the Animal Control Commission please visit

A special thank you to City Clerk Maureen Feeney and everyone at the Boston City Hall for graciously welcoming the ARL!

Maryann Regan and Maureen Feeny

Maryann Regan and Maureen Feeney share a hug at the end of the oath process.



Spay/Neuter FAQs, Part II

 ARL’s Dr. Schettino answers to frequently asked spay/neuter questions

Schettino fix a feral

Dr. Schettino “in action” at a recent ARL Fix-a-Feral Clinic, where feral cats in greater Boston are spayed or neutered and given other veterinary care.

When the ARL’s Dr. Schettino, director of veterinary medical services, sat down with us to discuss spay and neuter, he wanted to help pet owners understand why it’s hip to snip!

As Dr. Schettino points out, a large portion of the animals coming to ARL shelters every year come from unplanned or abandoned litters of puppies and kittens.  By increasing spay/neuter rates, you can help prevent pet overpopulation in a very humane way.

In part I of his chat with us, he cut through common myths about spay and neuter.

Read Part I

Today in part II, Dr. Schettino shreds through lingering concerns pet owners may have about having their pet spayed or neuter by answering the frequently asked questions he hears from clients at the ARL’s Boston Veterinary Care clinic and Spay Waggin’.

Here’s what he had to say…..

ARL Blog: What do you say to a pet owner who’s concerned that spay or neuter surgery is painful?

DS: Pain is associated with every surgery.  At the ARL, we use pain medication before, during, and after surgery to make the procedure as pain-free as possible. The majority of dogs and cats are acting 100% normal by the next morning. In fact, the challenging part to the surgery is trying to keep the dog or cat rested when they feel so good.

ARL Blog: Is spay or neuter surgery expensive? What are the local low-cost options/clinics in the area?

DS: Spay/neuter surgeries vary in price depending on location and provider – here’s a link with some great resources – The ARL offers free spay and neuter services for feral cats in greater Boston through our Fix-a-Feral trap-neuter-release clinics. Our Spay Waggin’ provides spay and neuter program created to assist clients in financial need on the South Shore and Cape Cod. You can also check with your local veterinarian.

ARL Blog: At what age should dogs/cats be spayed/neutered?

DS: Many veterinarians now spay and neuter dogs and cats as young as eight weeks of age. You should check with your veterinarian about the appropriate time for these procedures. And remember, it’s never too late to spay or neuter your pet!

spay neuter dog

During Spay/Neuter Awareness Month this February, the ARL is raising awareness with the “It’s Hip to Snip” campaign.

ARL Blog: Should pet owners be concerned that their pet’s behaviors will change after the surgery? Will a male dog, for example, be less of a protector?

DS: Your pet’s behavior will not change. A dog’s personality is formed more by genetics and environment than by sex hormones. It is a dog’s natural instinct to protect the home and family.

ARL Blog: What can people to do help end animal overpopulation?

DS: Spay and neuter your pet! Always talk to family and friends and explain to them the benefits of spay/neuter–tell them it’s hip to snip! Help them understand that this will benefit their pet as well as help prevent animal overpopulation. Additionally, people can donate to their favorite animal welfare charity to help support  spay/neuter efforts.

Join the conversation! On World Spay Day, February 24, World Spay Day, Dr. Schettino and the ARL will host an #ARLAskaVet Twitter chat at 12 PM (EST). Follow the ARL on Twitter @arlboston and submit your questions using the hash tag #ARLAskaVet.

ARL’s Dr. Schettino on Spay/Neuter, Part I

Hosting #ARLAskaVet Twitter Chat on World Spay Day

Dr. Schettino ARL director

Dr. Schettino takes a break with Socks during our interview on the importance of spay/neuter to preventing animal overpopulation.

He’s a man with a mission: to let everyone know it’s hip to snip!  We sat down with the ARL’s Dr. Edward Schettino to discuss the importance of spay/neuter.

As director of veterinary medical services, he works with the ARL’s private veterinary clinic Boston Veterinary Care,  the Spay Waggin’, and shelter veterinary medicine programs. He cut to the chase about why it’s hip to snip and answered some of the most frequently asked questions about the procedures.

In part I of his interview, Dr. Schettino focused on common myths about spaying and neutering.

ARL Blog: Give us the basics – why is it so important to spay and neuter pets?

Dr. Schettino (DS): There are too many cat and dogs in our communities that don’t have homes. If we can increase spay and neuter rates, we can help prevent pet overpopulation. Additionally, it lengthens the life span of our pets, reduces the cost of pet ownership, prevents aggressive behaviors, and offers protection from potentially life-threatening diseases including testicular cancer, breast cancer and uterine infections.

ARL Blog: What are some common myths about spay/neuter that you often hear?

DS: There are many common myths – here are some that I hear often:

I don’t want my male dog or cat to feel like “less of a male.”
Pets don’t have any concept of sexual identity or ego. Neutering will not change a pet’s basic personality.

I want my children/family to see my pets experience the miracle of birth.
Complications can and do occur during the birthing process. Teach children/family members that all life is precious and by spaying and neutering your pet, he/she will lead a healthier, longer life.

It’s better to have one litter before spaying a female pet.
This is false. Females who are spayed before their first heat are typically healthier.

My pet is a purebred and I should breed him/her.
Your pet may be a purebred, but so is at least one out of every four pets brought to animal shelters throughout the country. Purebreds and their offspring are no exception and be spayed and neutered as well.

My pet will get fat and lazy.
Pets get fat and lazy because their owners feed them too much and don’t give them enough exercise, not because they are spayed or neutered.

My dog (or cat) is so special. I want a puppy/kitten just like her/him.
Your pet’s puppies or kittens will not be a carbon copy of your pet.

It’s expensive to have my pet spayed
Many low-cost options exist for spay/neuter services. Check out the ARL’s spay/neuter resources to find one in your area.

Read part II of our interview with Dr. Schettino!  He talks about common concerns people have about spay/neuter surgery and its effects on their pet.

Have more questions for Dr. Schettino? On World Spay Day, February 24, World Spay Day, Dr. Schettino and the ARL will host an #ARLAskaVet Twitter chat at 12 PM (EST). Follow the ARL on Twitter @arlboston and submit your questions using the hash tag #ARLAskaVet.


Kick-Off Time For Spay/Neuter Fund Drive

15 days to raise $15K to spay/neuter more animals in 2015!

Howard spay/neuter spokescat

“It’s Hip to Snip” spay/neuter spokescat Howard strikes a pose during his photo shoot. Howard and all adoptable animals at the ARL are spayed or neutered before they go home with their new families.

The Ellen B. Gray Memorial Fund has challenged us to triple a $5,000 donation to fund spay and neuter programs at the ARL. So we’re kicking off the 15-day “It’s Hip to Snip” Fund Drive starting today, day one of Spay/Neuter Awareness Month, to meet that inspiring challenge!

All funds donated during the It’s Hip to Snip Fund Drive February 1 -15, 2015, will benefit the ARL’s spay/neuter programs and services.

Donate Now

There’s nothing cool about pet overpopulation. Too many cats and dogs don’t have homes. One way to solve the problem is to increase spay and neuter rates among owned, stray, and feral animals in Massachusetts.

In 2014, more than 5,500 cats, dogs, small animals, and livestock were spayed or neutered through the ARL’s mobile Spay Waggin’, shelter medicine, and feral cat programs.

Very importantly, all adoptable animals at the ARL are spayed or neutered before they go home with their new family.

Help raise $15,000 to spay and neuter more animals in 2015 by donating to the It’s Hip to Snip Fund Drive this February!

In honor of National Spay/Neuter Awareness Month this February, the ARL’s “It’s Hip to Snip” campaign will focus on raising awareness about the importance of spaying and neutering animals to prevent pet over population.  Learn more about the campaign at

It’s Hip to Snip spay/neuter fact: A large portion of the animals coming in to ARL shelters come from unplanned litters of kittens and puppies.




Give a Gift that Gives to Animals!

Last Minute Gift Ideas for You and the Animal Lovers on Your List

Still looking for that perfect gift for people on your list? There are several companies and organizations donating a portion of their proceeds to the Animal Rescue League of Boston this holiday season. So you can buy a great gift and feel good about where your money is going!

The following gifts will help shelter pets at the ARL:

Signed Country Music Guitars

Guitar CollageIf there’s a country music fan you’re shopping for this holiday season, then hang on to your 10-gallon hats because the ARL has a gift idea for you!Thanks to the generosity of Capitol Records Nashville and Broken Bow Records, the ARL has two very special items up for charity auction:

  • A beautiful Kona acoustic guitar autographed by country music super star and American Idol judge Keith Urban. Bid or buy now
  • A stylish Rogue acoustic guitar autographed by Country Music Artist of the Year Jason Aldean. Bid or buy now

All proceeds benefit the ARL. The auction will close at high noon on December 17, so make your bid now.

Pawblo Picasso’s Desk Calendars

Pawblo_Picasso_CalendarsPawblo Picasso is donating 15% of the proceeds from their 2015 desk calendars directly to the ARL. The 2015 calendar costs $14.99 and comes packaged in a CD jewel case, which opens up into an easel to display each month. Each month is a separate page and features a colorful painted illustration of a cat or dog by Pawblo Picasso. Every animal has a unique and adorable personality that is beautifully captured in the illustrations. It easily fits on your desk to quickly reference the date and fits perfectly in a stocking.

Don’t want to shop online? There’s a list of local retailers who carry the calendars.

Designated Dog T-shirts

Men-Brick-SS-Back_shopify_1024x1024Designated Dog will donate $10 from each shirt to the ARL. Their shirts are made from 6.1 ounce ringspun cotton and are a premium, soft washed garment pigment dyed fabric.  The t-shirts are Made in the U.S.A. and are pre-shrunk.

Harding Lane Hats

Yellow_Dog_front_cropped_ARLHarding Lane creates unique products that look great and give back. The goal of their winter campaign is to help fund-raise and spread awareness for the ARL through the sale of their “black dog” and “yellow dog” hats. During the holiday season 15% of each sale will be donated to the ARL.

Thank you Harding Lane for helping more animals find homes for the holidays by donating to ARL. ‪#‎homefortheholidays‬

ARL_gooseneck_signGooseneck Vineyards Bottles of Wine
Most of us can agree that a bottle of wine often makes for the ideal hostess gift, but a bottle of wine that helps animals in need, well that just hits it out of the park! Now – December 31 Gooseneck Vineyards will donate $1 to the ARL for every bottle of Gooseneck wine purchased in Massachusetts. For store locations and wine selections visit

If none of these items seem like a good fit for the people left on your list, then consider making a gift to the Animal Rescue League of Boston in the name of the person you are giving the present to. When you make a gift in honor of a person, pet, or occasion, we’ll notify the individual with a personalized card. To make a tribute gift, select “I would like to make a tribute” . Call 617.426.9170 x615 or email us for special requests.

Your donation will go directly to helping animals in need. What better gift is there, other than bringing an animal home for the holidays?



A Holiday Gift for the Dog Lover on Your List

Designated Dog Donates $10 from Every Shirt to ARL

Men-Brick-SS-Back_shopify_1024x1024Looking for a stocking-stuffer for the dog lover in your family? How about a fun t-shirt from Designated Dog that benefits animals at the ARL?

The dog lover on your list will love wearing one of these t-shirts and will feel proud to know that this gift supports shelter pets in need!

Designated Dog will donate $10 from each shirt to the Animal Rescue League of Boston. For a rescued animal, each shirt can translate to vaccines, a cozy bed, and even a microchip to help avoid being lost again.

The t-shirts are Made in the U.S.A. and are pre-shrunk.

Watch this video to learn more about Designated Dog and why they chose to donate to the ARL!

Thank you Designated for for choosing to help more animals find homes for the holidays, by donating to the ARL.

View the Designated Dog t-shirts.


Piper the Kitten Getting Special Care at the ARL

“She’s like our very own Tiny Tim”

ARL_Piper_Vet_1_emailThe Animal Rescue League of Boston’s (ARL) newest addition, little Piper the kitten, is recovering from delicate surgery performed on Monday to repair her broken back leg.

Just as the cold weather hit, kind Samaritans discovered the 6-8 week-old brown tabby all alone and struggling to walk near an ice cream shop in Orleans, MA. After police brought her to the ARL’s Brewster shelter, ARL veterinarian Dr. Kyle Quigley recommended bringing Piper up to Boston to explore all the options for repairing her leg.

“Piper was anemic, dehydrated, and clearly in some discomfort because of her broken leg,” Dr. Quigley explained. “Because she was so little, we wanted to make sure we helped her heal with minimal pain.”

An x-ray of Piper's leg with the pins and steel plate post surgery.

An x-ray of Piper’s leg with the pins and steel plate post surgery.

The ARL funded Piper’s surgery at Tufts Veterinary Emergency Treatment and Specialties in Walpole, MA, where veterinary surgeons inserted a steel plate and pins to repair the serious fracture in her thigh. The organization will continue to help Piper rehabilitate over the next 6-8 weeks and begin the process of finding her a permanent home.

“She’s like our very own Tiny Tim,” said Marianne Gasbarro, the ARL’s Boston shelter manager. “She got the treatment she needed just in time and will have a much better life in the new year ahead.”

The ARL expects Piper’s medical costs will top $2,000 with surgery and after care. The organization does not receive any government funding and relies solely on the generosity of supporters to help stray animals like Piper recover.

To make a donation to help Piper and other animals just like her, visit




Live life #UNselfie!

GivingTuesday is Your Chance to Help Animals Like Carrie

All Carrie wants is a home for the holidays and with your help she will have one someday soon!

Here at the ARL we understand that it can take time for a shelter pet to find the perfect home. Carrie, for example, has been waiting since August. Your donations help provide food, care, and enrichment for shelter pets like Carrie while they wait for a new home, no matter how long it takes.

GivingTuesday is a day dedicated to giving back to the charities and causes you care about most. Express your commitment to helping animals like Carrie by making a gift to the ARL today.

If you’ve already given to the ARL, thank you!

Please take a picture, tag it #unselfie, #givingtuesday and #arlboston and share it on social media to help spread the word about the ARL and GivingTuesday.

For more information about GivingTuesday, visit and thank you for your support!

To make a donation now, click here.

P.S. Do a GivingTuesday Extra and share Carrie’s profile with friends and family looking to adopt a dog!

unselfie definition


It’s Black Friday at the ARL!

Special things in store for everyone who adopts today

All ARL shelters are open for business on Black Friday with a special “deal” of our own!  Everyone who adopts from one of our shelters in Boston, Brewster, and Dedham on November 28 will receive:

  • The unwavering love and loyalty of a shelter pet (no limit on supply!)
  • An ARL pet emergency backpack (cat or dog version, while supplies last)
  • Free first wellness visit at Boston Veterinary Care vet clinic
  • Free pet toothbrush and toothpaste (while supplies last)
  • Only in Boston and Dedham – Coupon for 20% off your entire purchase with PALS reward from Petco Unleashed
  • Only in Boston – Coupon for 20% off your entire purchase at D’Tails (73 Berkeley Street, Boston)
  • Only in Brewster – Coupon for $10 off your pet supply purchase of $40 or more at Agway
11-14-14 Maverick_pic

Maverick loves to play and sing. Come meet him on Black Friday at the ARL’s Boston shelter.

10-31-14 Carrie Pic

Carrie loves being the center of attention. Come meet her on Black Friday at the ARL’s Boston shelter.

Generous supporters of the ARL have also pre-paid the adoption fees on select shelter animals, including the  bear-huggable Carrie and the ever-spunky Maverick.

Our Black Friday specials are part of our “Home for the Holidays” community outreach campaign to encourage adoption and support for animals in need in our community.  Visit for more information.

Shelter locations and hours on Black Friday are as follows:

10 Chandler Street, Boston
1:00 pm – 4:00 pm

3981 Main St. (Route 6A), East Brewster
10:00 am – 4:00 pm

55 Anna’s Pl, Dedham
1:00 pm – 6:30 pm