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The Ruff Report: Dogs and Adoption


An urgent plea for help from orphaned pets

Day after day, they sit there, staring through the bars of their lonely cages as they wait and hope for someone to take them home. These millions of orphaned dogs, cats and other pets simply want the chance to be part of a loving family.

And you can help make their dreams come true by joining the more than 3,500 animal shelters in 21 countries that are participating in the 12th annual Iams Home 4 the Holidays adoption drive that kicked off on October 1 and ends on January 4, 2011. This year's goal is to find homes for 1.5 million pets. So far, more than
878,812 pets have already been adopted.

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Last year, animal shelters in 17 countries participated in the three-month drive adoption drive which helped to find homes for 1,363,638 pets. The animals adopted included: 729,357 dogs; 588,265 cats; 46,016 other animals which includes rabbits, reptiles, horses and birds.

Two-time Academy Award-
winning actress Hilary Swank (photos at left), who served as the 2009 ambassador for the
adoption drive, is encouraging people to get involved in the program.

“I hope our success inspires everyone to get involved and continue to help eradicate pet homelessness because there are millions of animals who still need our help, and we all have the ability to help make a difference,” she states in a media release.

“I’m proud to be part of such an amazing cause, and I hope the many families who adopted through the Iams Home 4 The Holidays program will experience the same unconditional love and fulfillment my dogs, Karoo and Rumi, give me every day,” Ms. Swank states.

More than 4.6 million orphaned animals have been placed in homes since 1999, when the program began, including 1,202,718 in 2008.

Trisha Lord St. George, spokeswoman for the Helen Woodward Animal Center of San Diego,
which spearheads the world's largest annual pet adoption drive, attributes the program's success to a change in pet adoption philosophy during the holiday season. "Shelters were afraid that people would impulse adopt or adopt a pet to give as gifts," she said.

Prior to the program, most shelters shied away from processing adoptions around Christmas because families were thought to be too busy to bring home pets for the holidays and the pets would be returned in January.

But the Helen Woodward Animal Center encouraged shelters to stay open, maintain their adoption protocol during the holidays and follow their guidelines just like any other time of the year, Ms. St. George said.

"The old way of thinking about adoptions during the holidays was to stop adoptions, close the shelter down," Ms. St. George said. "The only message this sent to the public was a direct map to the mall pet shop with puppy mill puppies waiting to be bought and sold."

Since 1999, when the program began with a 14 shelters in the San Diego, Iams Home 4 the Holidays has grown into a global drive that has resulted in more pets being adopted each year. Some 2,563 pets were adopted in the first year, 100,000 in 2001 and 491,612 in 2007 And in 2008, the program surged over the one million mark.

Prior to 2008, Iams Home 4 the Holidays would start the week before Thanksgiving and run about six weeks. But last year, the start of the adoption drive was moved to October 1 to encompass Canada's Thanksgiving, which is October 12.

"Our Canadian friends to the north over the past nine years were missing out on one of their major holidays - Thanksgiving. ... Last year, it was great to include Canada’s full holiday adoption numbers," Ms. St. George said.

In addition to finding homes for orphaned pets, Home 4 the Holidays also helps slow the proliferation of puppy mills because people are getting animals from shelters rather than pet stores, Ms. St. George explained.

"We’ve all seen those stories about puppy mills on Oprah and Dateline and other shows. We’re appalled," Ms. St. George said. "Nobody would knowingly support a puppy mill business, but those pet stores that offer puppies and kittens for sale are offering puppy mill pets."

Reputable dog breeders do not sell animals through pet stores or shopping malls, Ms. St. George said. "So if you’re buying your new 'best friend' from a pet store or from a backyard breeder who advertises in the newspaper or sells puppies from the trunk of his car, you are financially supporting that industry."

So far, 3,279 shelters - in Australia, Canada, Columbia, Great Britain, Guam (USA), India, Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lithuania, Mexico, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Ukraine and the United States - are participating in this year's event.

"It's a time when all shelters/rescue groups put our egos in our back pockets and 'join paws' for all the orphaned pets," Ms. St. George said.

Ms. St. George is hopeful more organizations will get involved as the adoption drive progresses. "Participating rescues and shelters receive materials to assist them in marketing their adoptable animals and receiving the most benefit from their participation in Home 4 the Holidays. It’s 100 percent free," she said.


Animals shelters and organizations interested in signing up should visit Home 4 the Holidays for more information. Visit the Helen Woodward Animal Center for a list of participating shelters.