5 Things to Consider When Giving Animals as Gifts

Celebrating the holiday season with furry friends

It’s crunch time for holiday shoppers and finding that perfect gift that makes a friend or family member stand up and jump for joy remains very much on the minds of many this week.

Giving the gift of a new furry, feathered, or scaled family member is a frequent choice for a real WOW-factor holiday present.  That said, if a new pet is on your mind this holiday season, here are five things to consider.

  1. Thumper would love to come home with you!

    Thumper would love to come home with you for the holidays!

    Manage the surprise. Even at the risk of spoiling the surprise, make sure that the intended recipient wants a new pet.  Check with parents that they are willing to help a child care for an animal, for instance, and ensure they are able to financially take on the responsibility.

  2.  Don’t make them sneeze.  Confirm any allergies among all household members.  No one wants to go get an allergy shot after opening what’s supposed to be an extra special gift, after all.
  3. Know where they live.  Even if you know your intended recipient really wants a cat or dog, make sure they don’t live in a building or development that doesn’t allow pets.
  4. Find out what they can handle. You want to make sure you know the animal you are getting matches the lifestyle, physical limitation, ages, and personalities in the household.
  5. Adopt from a shelter.  When you adopt, you give an animal a chance at a better life.  Adopting from a reputable animal shelter like the ARL’s locations in Boston, Brewster, and Dedham also has many practical benefits.  All our adoptable animals, for example, receive spay/neuter services, vaccines, and a health and behavioral screening.

12-22-14 Pets as Gifts Pic2“At the ARL, the visitors who come in looking for a pet to give as a gift to a friend or family usually know their loved ones, what they can take on, and the kind of animal they would like to have as a pet,” explains Maryann Regan, the ARL’s director of shelter operations.

Sometimes our whole shelter staff even gets to be part of the gift-giving experience.

Recently, one merry gift-giver came in after seeing an adoptable dog he knew would be just what his girlfriend wanted.  The next day, he brought his girlfriend to the shelter to meet the pup.  It was love at first sight, so he surprised her then saying the dog was his special gift to her!

The ARL has many deserving animals looking for a home for the holidays – search adoptables now.


160 Days is Too Long for Such a Sweet Dog

Will You Help Phoenix Find a Home for the Holidays?

Phoenix would love to come home with you!

Phoenix would love to come home with you!

Don’t let this girl’s tough looks fool you, Phoenix is a big softy! This very friendly three-year-old dog has been at our Dedham adoption center since July (about 160 days).

In order to help her find a home in time for the holidays, a generous donor has sponsored her adoption fee!

Phoenix is a very playful and energetic dog and can chase tennis balls for hours, so she needs to go to an active home where she will get plenty of exercise. She is pretty powerful, so she’ll needs someone who is prepared for some leash training.

She enjoys affection and the company of loving people and is very ready for the perfect family to take her into their home.

To fall in love with Phoenix watch the video below.

Phoenix has been given a clean bill of of health, vaccinated, and spayed by our shelter veterinarians. If you are interested in meeting this gorgeous lady, please visit her at the Dedham adoption center or call them at (781) 326-0729 with any questions.


Pet Photos with Santa Today!

All Proceeds Benefit the ARL

Come in from the cold and join Boston Veterinary Care today from 1-3PM to have your pet’s photo taken with Santa! Hot cider and treats for both pets and humans alike will be provided. All proceeds benefit the Animal Rescue League of Boston.

Donate to a good cause, enjoy some refreshments and have a lasting keepsake of your furry family member – a photo with Santa! Check out the event on Facebook! Your donation will help shelter pets find a ‘Home For The Holidays’!

Please be sure that cats and small pets are in a suitable carrier for their safety.

Thank you in advance for your contribution!

We hope to see you there!



Join the ARL at the South End Tree Lighting

Today at the BCA!

We’ll be at the South End Holiday Tree Lighting this afternoon from 3:30-5:30pm. Stop by and say “hi!” Several adoptable dogs will be with us spreading joy and holiday cheer! We love getting out into the community and sharing what the ARL is all about.

The afternoon will be filled with family-friendly entertainment and art-making culminating in the holiday tree lighting with Mayor Menino!

Enjoy live performances, holiday printmaking, festive music, refreshments and…Macy’s enchanted trolley with special guests from the north pole!



Nothing’s Better Than a Home for the Holidays

Featuring Animals Who Need a Home & Those Who’ve Already Found One

This is the time of year when everyone at the ARL especially wants to give the animals in our care the opportunity to experience joy and companionship.  After all, it’s what the holidays are all about.

With that in mind, today we kick off “Home for the Holidays,” a month-long community outreach campaign to encourage adoption and support for our shelter animals.

We’ll feature stories on our blog about animals rescued from cruel conditions, now recovered and living happy and healthy lives.

Mike a 10-month-old guinea pig.

Mike a 1-year-old guinea pig.

We will also share the stories of the many deserving animals available for adoption at our adoption centers in Boston, Dedham, and Brewster.  Animals like Mike, a cute as can be guinea pig who’s been at the ARL since October 15. He’s great with kids and just an all-around stand-out guinea pig!

Our biggest holiday wish is to help the animals in our care and individuals and families willing to open their hearts to an animal in need find each other now.

Each of our adoption centers also has a holiday wish list of items and supplies that help make our furry, feathered and hoofed friends in our adoption centers feel comfortable and loved during their stay with us.  You can download and share the holiday wish list for each shelter at:

The happiest part of the work we do all year is bringing animals like Mike and people together.  Every year the organization unites over 3,000 deserving animals with loving human companions.  Another 1,100 find foster homes with dedicated ARL volunteers, too.

We look forward to sharing stories, pictures, and videos this month to help the animals in our care find a home for the holidays!


Pets As Gifts—Not a Bad Idea

Give the Gift of Love, Joy and Cuddles

You may be surprised by this, but giving a pet as a gift is not a terrible thing. We can say that our shelter animals would love nothing more than a home for the holidays.

According to our friends at the ASPCA, there’s no significant relationship between the love or attachment the pet parents had for their animals and receiving a dog or cat as a gift, whether they received the pet as a present or not.

Very importantly the ASPCA discovered that pets given as gifts were not more likely to be returned or surrendered!

Involvement in the decision did not impact love or attachment, said the ASPCA: “In fact, a higher percentage of those who were surprised reported that how the pet was obtained increased their love and attachment!”

You can read the peer-reviewed study, published in Animals, here.

Puppy Wearing Bow

The ASPCA study is not the first to challenge the conventional wisdom that pets given as gifts were more likely to be returned or surrendered. Dr. Gary Patronek, now a research consultant for the ARL’s Center for Shelter dogs and our former vice president of animal welfare, and colleagues Doctors Glickman, Beck, McCabe and Ecker, examined risk factors for dog relinquishment at one shelter and concluded that dogs received as a gift were at significantly decreased risk of being relinquished, compared to dogs who were purchased or adopted.

Dr. Jan Scarlett et al found that “unwanted gift” was rarely a reason for relinquishment of dogs and cats to the shelters surveyed.

Now that you’ve taken all of this to heart and decided to give your loved one a pet for the holidays, please keep the following things in mind.

1.  Test the waters.  Before you give someone a pet as a gift, make sure to establish they are open to bringing an animal into their lives.  Maybe they’ve hinted at the fact that they’ve been thinking about getting a pet.  Maybe you’ve hinted at the idea and they seemed enthusiastic.  Both are good signs.

2. Confirm any allergies in the household or residency restrictions.  If your intended recipient has expressed an interest in adopting an animal, the next step is to confirm he or she can have a pet.  If anyone has an allergy to cats in the household, for example, a kitten or adult cat is probably not a good idea.

3. Match to lifestyle. If the recipient you have in mind leads a busy lifestyle or has physical limitations, make sure to ask about an animal’s exercise requirements and personality.  Grandma’s been lonely ever since Grandpa has passed and she’s hinted at wanting a pet. She has arthritis and trouble walking for extensive periods of time.  A wiggly Lab puppy is not the best fit for her. Perhaps she’d do better with an older and small adult lapdog.

Maryann Regan, the ARL’s director of shelter operations, summed up our thoughts pretty well. “We feel that our shelter visitors who come in looking for a pet to give as a gift to a friend or family usually know their loved ones and what they are looking for.”

Maryann went on to say “we believe that most individuals are not going to get a pet for a friend or family member without the knowledge that their loved one wants a pet.  We have had successful adoption experiences with this process.”

We’re “not suggesting that you bring the gift of a new kitten to the host of the next dinner party… but instead allow your husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, partners and parents to bring love, joy and…yes…a pet home for the holidays.”


Your Pet is Hurting, You Can’t Afford to Help

On Giving Tuesday Help Families and Their Pets When They Need it Most

11-19 Giving Tuesday PhotoImagine the heartbreak of being unable to afford veterinary care when your cherished pet is hurting. It is a scenario that we all hope never to face, but sadly it is the unfortunate reality for some pet owners who are struggling to make ends meet.

The Phillips family was faced with this exact situation when their beloved 8-month-old black lab mix Riley suddenly became very ill back in February 2012. The family watched helplessly as he went from a playful and rambunctious puppy to a sickly pup that refused to eat or drink.

After calling numerous clinics in the area in hopes of finding someone who could help and being declined due to financial constraints, they started to fear that their only option to stop Riley’s suffering was to put him down. Thankfully, they called Boston Veterinary Care at the Animal Rescue League of Boston, where they were finally able to get the assistance Riley so desperately needed by utilizing the ARL’s Alice T. Whitney Helping Hand Fund.

The Fund aims to help owners that are suffering from financial hardship by providing the emergency care their animals need at little to no cost.

We hope you’ll make a gift to the Alice T. Whitney Helping Hand Fund on December 3 for Giving Tuesday, so that animals like Riley and owners like the Phillips family can have a second chance together.

Riley was immediately given a thorough examination by the dedicated team at Boston Veterinary Care and it was determined that he had an obstruction in his intestines. Although the family was not entirely sure, they suspected that Riley had gotten a hold of a styrofoam takeout container right before he became ill.

11-19 Giving TUesday Photo 2Unfortunately, Riley’s condition had become so severe that in order to save his life, BVC’s veterinarians had to perform emergency exploratory surgery. Once inside, they discovered that Riley did in fact have an obstruction that was causing him extreme pain and required the removal of a portion of his intestines. This complex surgical procedure cost $1,700, which was more than the Phillips family could afford to pay, but thankfully the League’s Alice T. Whitney Fund covered the entire cost of the procedure and saved Riley’s life.

When Riley and his family were finally reunited after his surgery, Riley’s tail wagged furiously and he showered  them with kisses. Soon thereafter he was back to being the rambunctious puppy the Phillips family knew and loved.

Please consider giving to the Alice T. Whitney Helping Hand Fund. You can help families like the Phillips when they need it most.

Check out our blog next Tuesday for another story about a family and their pet, whose life was saved thanks to the Alice T. Whitney Helping Hand Fund.

Learn more about Giving Tuesday and the Alice T. Whitney Helping Hand Fund: arlboston.org/givingtuesday2013/


Save the Date for GivingTuesday

Thanksgiving. Black Friday. Cyber Monday. GIVING TUESDAY.

The Animal Rescue League of Boston is proud to partner with GivingTuesday for the second year in a row!

Our goal is to raise $5,000 for the Alice T. Whitney Helping Hand Fund on December 3. Please save the date! 

#GivingTuesday is a special call to action and creates a national day of giving around the annual shopping and spending season to inspire giving every day.

While you start your holiday shopping, please keep in mind that there are families who are sometimes forced to choose between paying their rent or getting Fido lifesaving surgery after he was accidentally hit by a car. On GivingTuesday we ask that you help those families by donating to the ARL’s Alice T. Whitney Helping Hand Fund.

The Fund provides financial assistance to families with limited economic means so they don’t have to make the agonizing choice between everyday necessities and caring for their pet at the time of an emergency.

Every Tuesday throughout the month of November we’ll share with you the story of a family and their pet, whose life was saved thanks to the Alice T. Whitney Fund.

You can give the gift of love and time to a family and their pet in their time of need.

Learn more about the ARL’s GivingTuesday Campaign: http://www.arlboston.org/givingtuesday2013/



5 Pet Friendly July 4 Tips

Keep Your Pet Safe on July 4th

Most of us love a good 4th of July fireworks display, but our pets are not so enthusiastic about the festivities of the day. In fact, animals with “noise phobias” – fear of noises and sounds like fireworks and thunderstorms – may be terrified.

Photo credit: sitmeanssit.com

Photo credit: sitmeanssit.com

To ensure that your 4th of July holiday is fun for you and your pet, here are a few tips from Dr. Martha Smith-Blackmore, the League’s Vice President of Animal Welfare:

  1. Leave your pet at home if you are planning on attending a fireworks celebration.
  2. Keep small pets indoors preferably in a room with no windows. You can turn on the TV or radio to provide some distraction
  3. Have your pet constrained on a leash or kept in a carrier if you must be outside with them.
  4. Be aware that some pets become “fearfully aggressive” due to loud noises. Protect your pets from people who are waving sparklers or setting off home fireworks.
  5. Never punish your pet for his fearful behavior, but don’t reinforce the behavior by trying to sooth your pet with ‘It’s ok’ or similar words.  Paying attention to your pet may positively reinforce the fearful behavior.

Dr. Smith-Blackmore also notes that many animal shelters report increases of “stray” animal intakes after the July 4th holiday due to the number of pets running away in an attempt to avoid the noise and excitement. “Be sure that your pet has a current ID tag and/or microchip so that you and your pet can be easily reunited in the case he or she runs off,” she advises.

If you believe any of your pets has a noise phobia, talk with your veterinarian about the best ways to keep your pet safe during the holiday.

Have A Pet-Safe Holiday


Photo Credit: Maria Uribe

While part of the fun of the holidays is decorating – part of the fun for pets may be UN-decorating, and holiday decorations can be dangerous. Dr. Martha Smith-Blackmore and Dr. Amy Marder offer some suggestions to help keep your holidays from ending in disaster.

“Many a Christmas tree is felled by a rambunctious cat,” notes Dr. Marder. To prevent accidents, she suggests supporting your tree with a sturdy stand and wires. Try to hang ornaments (especially the more fragile ones) high on your tree to make them less accessible to pets.

“Ribbons and tinsel are especially attractive and hazardous to cats (they can end up in your pet’s intestinal tract, causing string foreign body blockage), and chewing on electrical cords can cause severe oral burns and even fatal shocks for dogs and cats. To help prevent this, try to cover the cords with a bad-tasting, non-toxic substance like Tabasco sauce or a bitter-tasting product from your local pet supply store.”

Decorative plants are also a source of danger. “Mistletoe and holly can cause vomiting and lilies are often deadly to cats,” warns Dr. Smith. “Poinsettias, despite their reputation, are not deadly but can cause blisters in the mouth and mild stomach upset.”

If you think your in-laws are stressful for YOU …
The holidays are traditionally a time for families to get together, but if your pet is uncomfortable around new people or people they rarely see, it may be best to separate him or her from company, says Dr. Marder. “Make sure that your young guests know to let your pet rest when in bed or while eating. And your cat may appreciate a new ‘kitty condo’ or merely cardboard boxes or paper bags in which to hide.”

Dr. Smith also advises monitoring people going in and out of the front door as pets might take advantage and try to escape.

“In addition, be sure to make time to spend quality time exercising and playing with your pets. The holidays can be stressful for all of us, a little play can be a great stress reliever (for both pets and owners alike!), and tired pets are less anxious pets. She concludes, “Our pets are family members too, we have to be sure they don’t get lost in the holiday shuffle!”

Keep your vet’s and local animal emergency hospital’s numbers handy.
Last but not least, keep your veterinarian’s phone number and the local animal emergency hospital handy in case your pet should become ill. A quick call to either of them can give you life-saving advice or even help you avoid a trip to the ER.

by Randell Jay