There’s no place like home for the holidays. But for 8 million dogs and cats in North America, home is an overcrowded shelter, or the street; not a place to spend the holidays, or any time of year.
IAMS Home 4 the Holidays, one of the worlds largest pet adoption programs, is making a significant dent in the homeless population. Iams, in partnership with Helen Woodward Animal Center, has helped 5.8 million pets find loving homes since 1999. This year, their goal is to find homes for 1.5 million orphaned pets around the globe. Theyre working with more than 3,500 animal organizations in 21 countries to make this happen.
Each year, as many as 4 million orphaned dogs and cats are euthanized due to shelter overcrowding â€” that is approximately one pet every eight seconds, says Mike Arms, founder of the drive and president of Helen Woodward Animal Center. Since partnering with Iams on the adoption drive 13 years ago, we have really seen the benefit of what this program can do for orphaned animals, and the families who adopt.
Wait. One dog or cat euthanized every eight seconds? Thats not acceptable. Would you like to help reduce that number? And how about helping feed shelter pets? (Food isnt cheap, as we all know!) Iamss Bags 4 Bowls program hopes to donate 5 million meals to animals housed in participating organizations.
Here are some ways you can help:
Visit the Iams list of participating animal organizations to find your forever friend.
Go to the Iams Facebook page and Like the page or various messages, photos, videos, etc. For each Like, comment, photo posted, etc., Iams will donate meals. Its pretty cool to know that each click you make will help feed a shelter pet. Click. Food. Click. Food.
Create a custom adoption announcement or holiday card to share the news of your new four-legged family member, or just send a seasonal greeting to family and friends. For each card created and shared, Iams will donate meals.
Purchase specially marked packages of Iams dog or cat food during the campaign, which ends January 3. For every package sold, Iams will donate one bowl of food to a participating Iams Home 4 the Holidays animal organization.
Its not that hard to be a hero this holiday. And speaking of heroes, I caught up via e-mail with Mike Arms while he was on a very busy two-week business trip in Canada and got to ask him a few questions.
MG: How did you come by your love of animals? Were there any incidents that cemented that animal welfare was something you’d want to be involved in one day?
MA: I never knew, growing up, [about] my devotion to animals, until that day in the Bronx when a dog gave me the last of his life to save my own. I havent looked back since.
Note: I asked Mike what happened, and because his time was tight, he pointed me to the Helen Woodward Animal Center website and asked if I could include the story in the interview. And what a story it is. In the 1960s hed taken a job as finance manager at the ASPCA in New York because he was told it would look good on his resume. Heres his amazing story:
The stress of seeing the horrors that mankind perpetrated against the animals of New York quickly became too much for Mike, as the ASPCA was killing over 140,000 innocent animals a year at that time. He gave his resignation and was running away from animal welfare.
With just six days to go until his last day, Mike got a call that there was a dog hit by a car on Davidson Avenue in the Bronx. There were no ambulance drivers available, so he took off his suit jacket and put on an ambulance driver jacket and drove out to the accident scene. Upon his arrival he saw a black and tan German Shepherd/terrier mix lying in the street. The dog had been hit with such force that his back was broken â€” he was literally bent in half.
“As Mike approached the injured dog, two men came out of a nearby doorway and asked him what he was doing. Arms calmly explained that the little dog was dying and he was taking him to the hospital. The men told him that he wasn’t taking the dog anywhere. Mike inquired as to if it was their dog and they said, ‘No, but we are taking bets on how long it is going to live.’
“Arms told them they were sick and turned to lift the dog into the ambulance. As he bent to lift the injured puppy, the men attacked him with a bottle to the head followed by the smack of a baseball bat and the sharp pain of a knife thrust into his hip and shoulder.
Mike was knocked unconscious, and as he lay in the street bleeding, the little dog, who should not have been able to move, crawled to Mike’s side to lick him awake.
It was a true epiphany for Arms as he spoke to God and said, Let me live, and I promise you, I will do everything in my lifetime to protect them. Mike has remained true to his word as the man who has saved more animals than any other person, living or dead, in animal welfare history.
(Yes, Dogsters, you may reach for the Kleenex now! Is that one of the most powerful, touching, heartbreaking stories youve ever heard?)
MG: What inspired you to start Home 4 the Holidays in 1999? What were the results of that first year?
I came up with the concept because I knew that most families, during the holiday season, bring a new pet into their homes, and I preferred it to be an orphaned pet, rather than a puppy mill pet. In 1999 we started with just 14 pet facilities in San Diego and collectively we did 1,563 adoptions.
MG: Iams Home for the Holidays helped 5.8 million families adopt a pet since then. The program had an incredibly successful year last year, with nearly 1.1 million pet adoptions. How does that feel, stemming from that one idea in 1999?
MA: I dont think words can express the internal warm feeling, knowing how many lives have been saved because of this idea. We have recently passed our 6 million mark, and counting!
MG: How does the program work, as far as being able to assist in so many adoptions?
MA: The program is driven by the media and social media to encourage people looking to bring a pet into their home this holiday season to visit their local animal facility, and give an orphan pet a chance.
MG: How many pets do you have at home, and who are they?
MA: I have four pets: three dogs and one cat. The cats name is Baby. I have a Lab named Wilson, who was rejected from the Guide Dog foundation because of a bad heart. I have Princess, a Shepherd blend, who was adopted from an animal shelter on Long Island. And Preem, a Boxer blend, also adopted at the same time and same place as Princess.
MG: Do you have a story you’d like to share about the benefits of adopting a homeless animal through your program?
MA: Adopting a pet is a great idea no matter what time of year it is. However, one benefit of adopting during the Iams Home 4 the Holidays program is that so many people feel depressed during the holiday season. These magnificent animals somehow know just what to do to take you out of that state of depression, and make you feel wanted, important, and happy.
MG: What’s your message this season to anyone thinking of getting a pet or helping homeless pets?
MA: What better reason than this season to bring a new life into your home? The true message would be to save a life and adopt a pet, rather than promote the cruelties of puppy mills.
If you cant bring a pet into your home this holiday season, you might have time to volunteer at your local animal facility and bring some love and compassion to the orphans that are there. If you cant do that, maybe you can give a donation to your local animal facility to help them continue their work in helping pets.
According to the Iams Home 4 the Holiday website, many shelters have ended euthanasia during the program. Be part of the success this year. Even if you cant adopt, Like your way around the Facebook page and make a difference.
(Dogs on chair photo from the Flickr photostream of EllenJo)