Take them Ho-Ho-Home for the Holidays!

Take them Ho-Ho-Home for the Holidays!

Tis the season to flex our adoption muscle and save the lives of millions of pets!  

While it wasn’t too long ago that holiday adoptions were considered verboten, nowadays shelters that shut down adoptions for the holiday are few and far between.  The overblown fear that holiday adoptions equal impulse gifts that will be given up soon after the holiday decorations are taken down has been replaced by the knowledge that the risk of an animal dying in a shelter is far greater (and far worse) than being returned to the shelter in a few weeks.

Rather than reading endless stories of the “dangers” of bringing pets home for the holidays, the world is now filled with news stories of holiday adoption promotions, reduced fees to encourage lifesaving and support for new adopters rather than harsh criticism.  

Likewise the myth of holiday stress being unbearable for pets and therefore a reason not to adopt (and let them die?) is shattered as well.  What could be more stressful than being a social creature alone in a cage with the potential of real-actual death hanging over your head?  Surely not sparkly lights on a Christmas tree.  That’s right.  People have actually tried to argue in the past that sparkly tree lights were more stressful than being in a cage in a shelter or worse, the stress of being killed.  Go figure.  

As Nathan Winograd recently wrote on the No Kill Blog:

“A kitten or puppy under the tree in December would end up in the shelter in January” was the dogma of the times and many shelters across the country actually refused to adopt out animals during this time of year. Taken to its logical conclusion, the argument is nothing more than “shelters should not do holiday adoptions because the animals may end up back at the shelter.” This, the thinking goes, is bad because shelters are bad places where animals are killed. The problem should be immediately obvious: the animals are already in the shelter! Stopping adoptions which would get them out of the shelter because they might end up back in it was bad enough. But not adopting them out ensures that the harm they claim to fear is all but assured—the animals will be killed, exacerbating shelter death rates.

So what is going on this year?  How about the Mayor’s Alliance for Animals in New York City promoting holiday pet adoptions as “A Gift That Keeps on Giving”. And rather than placating the diehard, old-school animal welfare advocates who still feel a cringe of pain when holiday adoptions are mentioned the Alliance’s press release boldly proclaims the lifesaving goals that they hope to achieve as a united group:

“By combining the dedication and passion of the remarkable shelters, rescue groups and volunteers that comprise the Mayor’s Alliance with the inspiring and successful Iams Home 4 the Holidays program, we hope that more New Yorkers will open their hearts and homes to a new furry family member, bringing joy this holiday season and for years to come,” said Jane Hoffman, president of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals.

Go Jane!

Our own holiday adoption promotion “Take them Ho-Ho-Home for the Holidays” kicks off with the start of the international Home 4 the Holidays program and is highlighted after Thanksgiving with our Black Friday Adoption Event where any animal with black hair - even just one - qualifies for discounted pricing.  People who adopt all black (or mostly black) cats get a special gift pack and the event lasts for around ten days.  

Other shelters are staying open later than usual to make adoption easier, offering free or reduced adoption prices, special bonus gifts with adoptions, appearances by Santa Claus and more.  

In his recent blog on holiday adoptions, Nathan wrote about a holiday adoption idea that … actually brought tears to my eyes and I hope it brings you the same sense of hope and joy:

During my own tenure as a shelter director, not only was our agency at the local mall every day during the month of December adopting out animals, we had Santa Claus personally deliver the new pet to the home. One of our volunteer Santa Clauses sent me this e-mail on his first encounter:


I came to the house at the appointed time and knocked on the door. The parents were ready with their video camera and I could hear them inside telling their daughter to ask who it is. She did, and I replied “ho, ho, ho.” I heard what sounded like a gasp. I then heard the mom say, “go ahead and open it, sweetie.” A little girl opened the door and when she saw me her jaw just about hit the ground. I came in with an adoption box and sat down and asked her what she wanted for Christmas. She said she wanted a kitty cat. I told her to open the box. She turned back to her parents, who told her it was ok. She did and out popped the cat. She sat their stunned for a second, and then started clapping and jumping up and down. I had to look away because tears were welling in my eyes, but I looked at the parents and they were both crying also. I said Merry Christmas from the Tompkins County SPCA. It is a memory all of us will cherish forever. Thank you for letting me be a part of this.


I believe in thoughtful adoption screening. But as a movement, we have to stop focusing our policies under the false premise that the public can’t be trusted, that the animals are better off dead than in the homes of those who believe that there is no better display of holiday spirit than to open their home to an animal in need. Because if there is a central lesson in the No Kill philosophy, it is that there is enough love and compassion in every community to overcome the irresponsibility of the few.

Happy holidays to all and thank you!

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3 Responses to “Take them Ho-Ho-Home for the Holidays!”

  1. Lynn Orbison says:

    Oh Thank You. I needed that. I’m going to see if our rescue group would like to have a Santa delivery option…

  2. jeanne olson says:

    What a pleasure it is to read this! I ,too,can add a few other horror stories to the traditional “No Holiday” Adoption policy.
    Local Animal Control shelter refused to allow an adoption of a husky to a woman just before Christmas. “But”, she exclaimed, “I’m Jewish!” The staff told her it didn’t matter. So, the dog remained in the building until after Christmas and she had to pay the additional boarding fees because she had to wait to take the dog home.
    The staff gives a blank look when you ask what the difference is between an animal arriving in it’s new home just before Christmas, or arriving just before a birthday. How do you know if there will be the noise of wrapping paper and party glee? What about the fireworks on the 4th of July?
    Alas, so much progress to keep working on.

  3. Barbara Saunders says:

    Adoption groups really need to get out of the public’s way!

    I adopted a black cat in 1994. Although I’d been auditioning prospects with my other cat for over a month, the rescue group made me wait for a week - for the Halloween weekend to pass - to take home the one I’d chosen.

    A tiny cat, she’d been mistaken for a kitten though she was middle-aged, and was housed in a cage with some irritating (to her) playful youngsters. I could have given her a happier Halloween in my home.

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