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Miracle on O'Farrell street

San Francisco SPCA teams with Macy's to showcase adoptable pets

From Animal Sheltering Magazine November/December 2013

Adoptable furry creatures from the San Francisco SPCA will frolic once again this holiday season in specially designed windows at Macy’s Union Square. In addition to spreading good cheer, the promotion boosts adoptions and raises money for the SPCA.Jamie Holt and Jennifer Lu of the San Francisco SPCA’s marketing department volunteer as greeters outside Macy’s during last year’s holiday windows promotion.

Not a creature was stirring?

The ones scurrying around the Macy’s display windows at the corner of O’Farrell and Stockton streets in San Francisco apparently didn’t get that memo.

For the 27th straight holiday season, the San Francisco SPCA is teaming with a local store to showcase adoptable cats and dogs. Macy’s Union Square will be hosting the event, which runs from mid-November through Jan. 1, for the 10th straight year.

“It’s been an amazing partnership” that has boosted adoptions, raised money for the SPCA, and made the public more aware of shelter animals, says Krista Maloney, an SPCA spokeswoman. Through a mobile adoption center set up inside the store, the SPCA last year found homes for 285 animals. Macy’s shoppers who spot an animal in the window who catches their fancy can meet with an SPCA matchmaker and begin the same adoption process that would take place at the shelter.

In addition, volunteer greeters outside the store last year collected $87,000 in donations. And the SPCA waived adoption fees back at its shelter, which helped boost the total number of animals adopted during the holiday season to 870.

“As far as we know, it’s the only thing like it in the country,” Maloney says.

SPCA staff gather a group of animals in the morning and take them on the 10-minute ride to Macy’s. The animals are cycled in and out of the windows throughout the day, generally spending two to four hours on display. Staff monitor them to see how they’re handling the experience, and those who appear tired or stressed get pulled from the windows. “Most of them do really well,” Maloney says. The animals return to the shelter at night.Designed by Macy’s and a New York design firm, the windows aim to be both eye-catching for shoppers and comfortable for the inhabitants, says Rise Hixson, visual manager for Macy’s Union Square. They feature reproductions of iconic San Francisco structures like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Union Square Park ice rink, along with perches, boxes, and beds for the animals. The window spaces are accessible, well-ventilated, and easy to clean. The SPCA supplies litter boxes, which are placed discreetly toward the back of the displays.

The promotion spreads holiday cheer to customers and staff alike. Maloney says when weary shoppers spot the windows, “They suddenly see the kittens and puppies, and their eyes just light up.”

“Oh, they love it,” agrees Hixson. “We love it, too. It’s something we do for the community, but to be honest it’s something that all of us here in the store absolutely adore and look forward to. As I’m starting to get the windows going and loading in, I hear from all our associates, asking, ‘When’s the date? When do the puppies and kittens arrive?’ Everyone gets really excited.”

Especially the furballs who get to learn that there’s no place like a new home for the holidays.

Check out a live video stream from the windows at

About the Author

James Hettinger is the assistant editorial director for Animal Sheltering magazine at The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). He's responsible for editing copy and managing the production of the award-winning quarterly publication aimed at shelter and rescue personnel. Prior to joining The HSUS in 2008, James worked for several local newspapers and trade associations in the Washington, D.C., area. He shares his home with three cats: Edgar, Dana and Vinny.