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Never mind the myth

Shelters show Halloween’s a fine time to find homes for pets

From Animal Sheltering Magazine September/October 2013

Lover Boy had no problem finding a home during a Halloween adoption promotion last year at the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria, thanks to his natural cuteness and an assist from a froggy costume.

It’s one of the longstanding myths of the animal welfare field: Shelters and rescues need to hold their babies (especially black kitties!) tight at Halloween, lest they end up in the hands of miscreants who wish them harm.

But some animal welfare organizations are finding that there really aren’t hordes of Satanists lining up with trick-or-treaters to adopt pets.

In fact, they’ve found that Oct. 31—and the black-and-orange-bedecked, candy-corn-studded days around it—is actually a splendid time for a seasonally themed promotion. Rather than keeping their black felines (and other dark-hued pets) cloistered, they’re using the spooky holiday as a great opportunity to find them homes.

For the past few years, the Cat Adoption Team (CAT) in Sherwood, Ore., has celebrated its Great Pumpkin Feline Adopt-a-thon, offering $10-$50 off cat and kitten adoptions, along with discounts in the shelter’s retail store. The “trick” is that potential adopters have to “bob” for “pumpkins”—mini gourds floating in a big, water-filled dish—in order to find the amount of their discount. (Each gourd has a dollar amount written on the bottom in indelible ink.)

Last year, public relations manager Kathy Covey couldn’t find any of the cute gourds, so she instead filled the bowl with bright-orange, pumpkin-shaped cookie cutters, with dollar amounts written on them, so participants “plucked” rather than “bobbed” for their discounts. It didn’t appear to dampen any spirits—75 cats of all colors still went home during the Oct. 27-31 promotion, according to Covey.

The Kentucky Humane Society (KHS) teamed up with Louisville Metro Animal Services (LMAS) in 2012 for a “Howl-o-ween” promotion in which adopters who brought a “treat” for shelter pets (off a wish list of supplies) paid no adoption fees for cats 4 months and older, or dogs 1 year and older. Some of the adoptable pets were dressed in costumes, a KHS behavior trainer demonstrated “tricks” that the humane society teaches dogs, and an LMAS officer provided pet-safety tips for Halloween.

The joint promotion was a hit with the local media, says KHS director of communications Andrea Blair, and 124 pets were adopted from KHS alone. The shelters got some flak from a few Facebook posters who criticized them for including black cats in the event, “and so we used this as an educational moment to spread the word that that’s really a myth,” Blair says.

In the week preceding Halloween last year, the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria in Virginia embraced the holiday with a special promotion, reducing adoption fees for all black animals by half. “These are great, adoptable animals all year round,” says Patrick Cole, director of communications and outreach. Staff also dressed up some adoptable pets in costumes throughout October, to celebrate a Halloween theme, sharing the images on social media. The shelter adopted out 103 pets that month—proving, perhaps, that black cats are good luck.

About the Author

Jim Baker is a former staff writer for the Humane Society of the United States.