Adopt a Pet for the Holidays:
Written by Steve Dale   
The Iams Campaign Has Found Homes for Nearly Two Million Shelter Animals

            The conventional wisdom has always been, don’t obtain a pet during the holiday season. “But why not?” asks Mike Arms, president and CEO of the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe, CA.

            After decades in the business of adopting pets, Arms noticed that, in fact, few animals adopted around the holidays were returned to the shelter. In 1999 in conjunction with 14 others San Diego area shelters, he launched the first Iams Home for the Holidays adoption drive. Over 2,500 pets found forever homes.

            Still, Arms’ idea ‘pushing’ adoptions for the holidays is considered a bad plan by many shelter officials. In fact, some shelters discourage holiday adoptions, even closing their doors weeks prior to Christmas. “It’s one way to give yourself a vacation for the holidays,” says Arms. “The assumption is that people will  make bad adoption decisions around the holidays. The truth is, there’s nothing to back this assumption up. It’s an urban myth.”

             Arms points out that thousands of moms and dads finally succumb to year round pressure from their children to add a dog or cat to the family.  Even adult-only families tend to want a wagging tail to join their lives around the holidays. “All these people are going to get a pet anyway,” explains Arms. “If shelters close their doors – their only leaving themselves out as an option. The public will get pets where they can, from backyard breeders or pet stores. Now, you have an impulse purchase about to happen, which is exactly what you don’t want. Most shelters today screen people, so not all pets are adopted to all families. There’s a great deal of effort to match the lifestyle of the family with a pet’s personality. The backyard breeders and the pet stores are all about their love of the buck.”

            It’s hard to argue with the success of Iams Home 4 the Holidays, arguably the most successful annual adoption campaign ever. Over 2,700 shelters representing 11 countries (aside from the U.S.), including Australia, Brazil, India and Qatar now partake. In all, since 1999 over 1.7 million pets have found new homes for the holidays.

            At Helen Woodward, Arms says six per cent of all adopted pets are for one reason or another returned to the shelter. However, the relinquishment rate for pets adopted as a part of the Iams Home 4 the Holidays campaign is half that.

Barbara Richards with Shorty

            “Forever” is how long Barbara Richards says she’s thought about getting a dog. In mid-November she adopted from Helen Woodward an Iams Home 4 the Holidays 7-month old dog of unknown lineage (she says part German shepherd dog and part something with short legs). “We saw the Home 4 the Holidays banners, and the place was packed,” she says. While the Home 4 the Holiday promotion wasn’t incentive, per se, she concedes, “Interestingly, we (she and her boyfriend) decided to adopt now – just before the holidays.”

            She says she chose this specific dog because he looked so calm and relaxed. “He pulled one over on us,” says Richards, an executive news producer at KFMB-TV in San Diego. “He’s certainly a little more than energetic. If you’re easily irritated, Shorty (named for those short legs) wouldn’t be the dog for you. We’ll learn how to train him, though. The cats already have. If he gets too crazy with them, he gets a face full of claws.”

Diamond finds a new home

            It’s a cat that Andrea’s Smith’s boys had been pleading for. And, finally, she relented. Smith, who is in Newton, IA visited the Jasper County Animal Rescue League in early November. After meeting many cats, the shelter staff and Smith were far more impressed with Diamond, who is about 3-years old. “He seemed to have the right temperament to tolerate a three-year old and a four-year old. Diamond turned out to be the perfect cat for our home. In an hour, he was already lounging on the dining room table – as if he belonged here all along.”

            Interestingly, the builder and previous owner Smith’s home had little crawl spaces for cats built-in as a part of the home’s architecture. “Diamond was meant to be with us,” adds Smith, a director of communications at Wellmark Blue Cross in Des Moines. “For my kids, this has been the best gift – a gift who can deal with them, and gift who gives love.”