Home 4 the Holidays founded on a lick and a promise
by Martin Jones Westlin | San Diego Pets
10:13 AM, Monday, October 01
The Iams Home 4 the Holidays pet adoption drive was founded in 1999, but the bleak central event that fueled it unfolded more than 30 years before. Mike Arms, then a young accountant with New York’s American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, was severely beaten and stabbed as he came to the aid of an injured dog, awakened from unconsciousness only by the animal’s lick of his face.

Emergency care came too late for the shepherd/terrier mix, whose back had been broken by a passing car—and it was then that Arms pledged his life to the field of animal welfare. Today, Arms is the president of Rancho Santa Fe’s Helen Woodward Animal Center and founder of Home 4 the Holidays, the country’s largest and most successful pet adoption campaign. Begun in 1999 with just the cooperation of a handful of county animal shelters, the 2011-12 drive, placed pets in more than 1.2 million homes nationwide.

The number could probably be higher, Arms indicated, citing the media’s role in the campaign.

“We know,” Arms told San Diego Pets Magazine in an e-mail, “that in those rare occasions where a pet might hurt a human being, the incident is exploited throughout the media, and normally the last statement in that media exposé is that the pet is at ‘XYZ Animal Shelter.’ It does not encourage potential pet adopters to come to your facility if they think that you only have aggressive or dangerous pets. We need to do more to creatively promote and market the beautiful orphan pets that we do have.”

Meanwhile, he added, the nation’s mindset isn’t helping.

“In our country,” he wrote, “we do more to advertise for pizza, Coca Cola, and hamburgers than we do to advertise the beautiful orphan pets that we have. In order to have more footsteps come into your facility, you need to show the public the beautiful pets that you have.”

Iams, the giant Ohio pet food manufacturer and Procter & Gamble subsidiary, co-founded the adoption drive and has helped place more than 7 million animals. Iams spokesman Jason Taylor cited the company’s participation in the campaign, noting that Iams provides shelters with a comprehensive marketing guide to help promote their presences in the drive. This year, he said, the company is launching its Digital Dish Drive, wherein followers can “like” or “share” specific posts on Iams’ Facebook page, leading to donations of meals for homeless animals.

Arms indicated that the need for such campaigns is perpetual. In a report from last August, the American Humane Society said that of the 5 million companion animals taken into animal shelters nationwide every year, about 3.5 million are euthanized, with 15 percent of dogs and only 2 percent of cats eventually returned to their owners.

“We all want to not have to euthanize pets,” Arms said. ”In limited access facilities, such as Helen Woodward Animal Center, we just take in the number of pets that we project we can adopt each week. We never have to overcrowd, so managing the pet inventory is much easier, versus those organizations that are county- or state-funded with taxpayer dollars. They must take in all pets, and unfortunately sometimes for them, they are overcrowded, and the only way they can make space is to euthanize these pets.”

That’s where Home 4 the Holidays comes in. Once again, Arms vigorously calls attention to the drive, its beginning fueled by a damnable assault that, except for the quick thinking of one of the victims, may have cost him his life.

This year’s campaign began Oct. 1 and runs through Jan. 2. For more, please visit animalcenter.org or call 858-756-4117.

    —Martin Jones Westlin

5 Things to Consider Before Adopting a Pet

  1. Appearances can be deceiving. Take the time to talk to the people who work at a shelter or rescue and let them help you, they can teach you a lot.
  2. Take your time. Finding the right fit for your family may take a few visits. Don't expect to walk in and out in twenty minutes.
  3. Always do what's best for the animal! Don't feel obligated to take home 'just one more' if you already have a full house. Likewise if you are a first-time pet parent, try not to take on a “hard case,” you may find you don’t have the time, energy or experience.
  4. Be realistic. Pets of all shapes and sizes cost time and money. Be sure you are emotionally and financially prepared.
  5. COMMUNICATE. Consult everyone in your household before adopting; everyone needs to be prepared to have a new pet.



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