The agency started its Home for the Holidays promotion as a way to gain media exposure and to show that allowing pets as gifts is an effective tactic to get animals into loving homes.
Several weeks before Christmas, CAS advertises the program via newspapers, radio and social media. Starting on December 20, people are invited to visit the shelter and select a pet for a loved one.
Once the pet is chosen, an adoption fee is paid in order to hold the pet until delivery on either Christmas Eve or Christmas morning.
“The Charleston community has come to consider the Home for the Holidays program a valued tradition.”
How It Works:
The pets are delivered by volunteer elves—and the roles are highly coveted and quickly filled. CAS volunteer Cindy Branscome shares, "For an animal lover, there's nothing better than seeing a dog go from a stressful shelter environment to a loving home with a comfy, warm couch." Branscome, who delivered Brutus to his new family one year, documented the dog's delivery with this endearing adoption video.
Volunteers go all out to make this a special event for the pets and their new families, dressing in elf costumes or Santa hats and decorating each dog or cat carrier with bows. Many elves also bring along holiday treats and stockings for the pet.
Most volunteers use their own cars to deliver the animals to their new homes. However, recently the agency also used its branded Subaru (a donation from a local dealership) for deliveries.
All CAS volunteers go through a basic training, but those lucky enough to be delivery elves are also instructed on messaging for the holiday deliveries. "Since some pets are delivered to children who are expecting Santa Claus, volunteers are instructed to tell kids Santa asked them to deliver their pets for him because it was too cold on his sleigh," says Kay Hyman, director of community engagement.
A Program That Will Get You Air Time
CAS recognized that the media would love the idea of Home for the Holidays, and during the program's first year it made the front page of Charleston's biggest newspaper and got air time on local TV stations.
Joe Elmore, CEO and president of CAS, reports, “The Charleston community has come to consider the Home for the Holidays program a valued tradition." And the best news: Elmore tells us that of the 40 animals who have been gifted since they started the program, none have been returned. Not only that, but many of the families send the agency updates about their new pets, thanking them for the best gift ever.