Santa Cat Fail
Foto from FAILblog - my second favorite blog!

“You’re Doing it Wrong” is our current topic on the website - organizations that are doing it wrong when it comes to animal sheltering - and in the context of the holidays we are also talking about holiday adoptions.  

As I was researching the current state of holiday adoptions with web and news searches I was pleasantly surprised to find that overwhelmingly major organizations have discarded the faulty philosophies of the past, particularly the idea that responsible adoptions simply cannot occur around the holidays.

Pleasantly surprised is actually an understatement.  I was thrilled.

News searches turned up one after another, story after story of shelters holding holiday promotions, Santa Claus appearances and thousands of organizations have joined the Home 4 the Holidays promotion.  


But then…

It’s pretty common knowledge that I’ve been frustrated with certain positions that the HSUS has taken on companion animals.  Ironically I support many of HSUS’s efforts for non-companion animals so it truly fries my brain when I come across something that is so out of touch with reality as I did when I was searching for holiday adoption information.  

Yes, that’s right … I found it on HSUS’s website.  Sticking out like Rudolph’s red nose was HSUS’s attempt at holiday adoption guidance.  But this red nose was actually leading Santa’s sleigh in the WRONG direction. 

So what was so dramatic that it had the potential to derail Santa’s sleigh and put an end to a Happy Holiday for shelter animals?  You aren’t going to believe this….  ok, maybe you will but seriously… HSUS was actually encouraging people NOT TO ADOPT:


Nobody will get any presents with statements like these, particularly the animals who might die in shelters if anyone follows the advice.  This is a double-feature: Holiday Adoptions: Doing it Wrong.

No, I thought, has got to be just an old information sheet left over from the days before HSUS had embraced adoption as the solution to senseless shelter deaths.  Wayne’s blog “Ad to Adoption” had just recently been posted.  Awesome!  This, I thought, is my chance to do a good deed!  Hooray!

So I wrote to Wayne’s Blog through the contact link there.

And I waited.

And waited.

Nothing.  Not even a form letter saying “Thanks for writing”.

Was I too forward?  Was I too rude?  Did I come across as a lunatic? Worse yet … Did the HSUS ultimately agree that adopters really should turn their backs on shelter animals right now to wait for some sort of appropriate moment in the future?  A moment too late for animals that face death today?  

No… that can’t be right.  Maybe they are away for the holiday.  Maybe they don’t have even a form letter to let me know that someone will get to my email… maybe I should have used a different address … ugh … Now I am making excuses for them! (I had shared my email … and my patiently waiting for a response … with Nathan and The No Kill Blog and he mentioned it in his weekly wrap-up yesterday)

The clock is ticking!

But then on December 3rd there was another post on Wayne’s blog (thanks to Caveat for bringing it to our attention) that made my heart skip.  The One to Watch focused on HSUS’ critics.  Is the type of letter I wrote going to be lumped in with this group of people and organizations - if you aren’t for us, you are against us?  

Our opponents rightly recognize The HSUS as the greatest threat to their continued reliance on cruelty as a standard business practice, custom, or hobby. We are a force because we are 10 million strong, and when so many people of conscience take collective action, there is no question that we will advance the principles we hold so dear.

Where am I?  I’m not one of the ten million… I see this information as a threat to my (and others) ability to save lives?  

Surely it’s not that black and white…

Dog bless people like Rich Avanzino for having the courage to turn the world of sheltering around and bless him further for being a big enough man to reach out to HSUS and partner with them to promote adoptions. Rich, have you seen what HSUS has on their website?  Should I have copied you on the email?

Someone please…  get my email in front of people who will read it and take action.  Or better yet, write your own!

 This will be the best gift you can give to sheltered animals:

Dear Mr. Pacelle,


I’m writing in response to the post of November 14, Ad to Adoption in the hope that the HSUS will consider revising its Pet Adoption Information page entitled “The Best Gift You Can Give: Waiting to Adopt Until After the Holidays”.  The page referenced can be found at: http://www.hsus.org/pets/pet_adoption_information/the_best_gift_you_can_give_waiting_to_adopt_until_after_the_holidays.html


As the Home 4 The Holidays adoption promotion program has shown, the success of holiday adoptions far outweighs the concerns of impulse adoptions failing.  This is of particular significance as the threat of imminent death at a shelter is more of a real and immediate concern for the animals in question.


I applaud your efforts to dissuade purchases from pet stores but the information provided on this page ranges from discouraging giving pets as gifts, even to family members (”impulsively purchases an animal for her beloved”); discouraging purchases from pet shops (”the doggie looks so darn cute in the pet shop window”); and cites the example of one case of poor decision making that, although resulting in the cats immediate and safe return to the shelter, focuses on an imagined worse case scenario for an assumed majority of animals with no particular evidenciary support.  


This hodgepodge of ideas is then wrapped up in a title that encourages people to wait until after the holidays to adopt despite having given sage advice on responsible pet parenting and the decision making process.  A sense of urgency to save the lives of the wonderful animals that are waiting for homes in shelters right now is sadly missing.  Instead there is a lecturing tone, a tone that assumes each person seeking out a pet at the holidays is probably making a poor decision or hasn’t thought things through properly.


The HSUS has the power to make a tremendous impact on the life and deaths of shelter animals and encouraging people to “wait” may cause lives to be lost.   I hope you will consider changing the title to a more proactive and responsible message and then go on to highlight the important points of holiday adoptions:


  • There are millions of homeless animals who need homes and the holidays can be a beautiful and magical time of year to save the life of a shelter animal
  • Adopting an animal can be an amazing, life changing experience for you and your loved ones and animal shelter staff can help you match you to the best companion
  • If you are not positive that your family is ready for a new pet or you have not found the perfect match, giving a gift certificate (or any other of the ideas mentioned in the current article) is a great alternative
  • Importantly, purchasing a companion animal from a pet store will only continue the cycle of suffering in mass-breeding facilities 
  • Lastly and most importantly the best give you can give is a lifelong, loving home to a sheltered animal


Thank you so much for giving this suggestion consideration.





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One Response to “HSUS Holiday FAIL”

  1. Thank you for this article and I agree HSUS should be ashamed of themselves - they are doing it wrong again! Anytime is a good time to save a pet’s life.

    By the way, I like the new background image of the snowflakes.

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