Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The Best Gift of All

Tips for Giving a Shelter Animal a Home for the Holidays

The holidays are a great time of year for many reasons. Visiting with friends and family, time off of work and school and, of course, those shiny packages wrapped up with colorful bows! It’s also the perfect time of year to give a home to a shelter pet because you and your family will be spending more time at home with the newest addition to your family.

When bringing your new pet home, you’ll want to make the transition as pleasant and stress-free as possible. Whether you’re considering adding a cat, dog or rabbit to your family, keep these helpful tips in mind.


If you’re adopting a cat, the first recommendation each of our Adoption Counselors will make is to separate your cat in one room of your home until they’re acclimated to their new environment. This should be the smallest room in your home with the least amount of clutter. Cats can be overwhelmed easily, so it’s best to take your time building a relationship. Spend some time in the room with your new cat each and every day. When he or she greets you at the door and is no longer hiding, it’s probably time for more space and freedom!


Dogs are a constant source of fun and entertainment, but you’ll need to take steps to keep your new canine family member (and your house!) out of trouble. Your dog will need a dog-proof space to rest and chew appropriate items when you’re not around – a crate or small room is ideal. From day one, start teaching your pooch the rules of the house through positive reinforcement. Eventually, he’ll learn to be trustworthy in your absence and will excel at following the rules of his new home.


Bringing home a rabbit is a wonderful experience. Rabbits are social creatures who want companionship just as much as you do. Using an exercise pen is the best option as opposed to a cage or hutch because it gives you the option of making your rabbit’s area any size you’d like. A rabbit’s area should be at least four times the length of the rabbit or large enough for him or her to stretch out comfortably – while fitting a litterbox and food and water bowls.

Follow these tips and you and your new family will be well on your way to happily ever after. Patience is the key to building a strong relationship with your pet, it’s always better to take your time and be sure than to rush it!

We know that the greatest gift you can give to a shelter pet is a home. To make this wish come true for as many of our residents as possible this holiday season, we’re offering priceless* adoptions for each cat, dog and rabbit at Animal Friends through Dec. 31 thanks to the entire Fragasso family. Come to Animal Friends or click here to get started now!

*Standard adoption application procedures apply.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

"Almost" Doesn't Count

Two silken-coated puppies run circles around their foster family’s yard. The cocoa-colored blurs of bouncing ears and wagging tails were chasing a windblown leaf. After they lost interest, they pounced on each other and tumbled into a heap of playful yips and barks. Their antics constantly gave their foster parents a chuckle and – without a doubt – were the very definition of endearing.
Born in foster care just days before Christmas, these adorable pups were aptly named Hope and Cheer.
One look into their trusting eyes and you’d never guess that they almost didn’t survive ...
An anonymous tip about a house with too many animals led us there. No matter how many times our Humane Police Officers see these situations – it never gets easier.
With a search warrant and back-up from local police, our officers entered the residence. What they saw was truly heartbreaking.
Dozens of severely matted dogs and puppies were covered in feces. They were sleeping in drawers, hiding in closets and under beds. Some of the dogs swarmed the officers’ feet. Others ran away terrified. Some weren’t moving at all.
Instead of toys and leashes there were stacks of trash, stained carpets and empty food bowls. These dogs needed help – and fast.
We quickly filled crate after crate. Vehicle after vehicle.
After they were all safely removed, one last sweep of the house found more evidence to turn the situation from tragic to cruel.
The dogs – purebred Yorkshire Terriers – were never intended to be members of this family. They were simply a means for their owner to make an income. Bred and sold for cash.
But now, 27 dogs and two cats were on their way to get the help they so desperately needed. They were on their way to a fresh start. They were on their way to Animal Friends.
Word spread quickly that a big rescue was underfoot. Eager staff and volunteers came from every corner of the building to lend a hand.
You see, our kennels are always filled to capacity with homeless animals. So, we had to creatively make space for our emergency arrivals.
Temporary kennels were set up. Volunteer foster families were readied. We even equipped our Outreach Center as a triage area to provide medical care as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Medications were administered for the infections that plagued their tiny bodies. The mats that entombed them were sheared off. And the anxious cries that echoed throughout the building were met with words of comfort. Little did we know that this rescue alone would cost $70,000 – on top of our daily demands.

As the excitement died down, the dogs settled into their kennels. Those who needed around-the-clock attention were placed into foster homes. Including a pregnant mom, Betsy, so she could safely give birth to small litter of puppies.
Hope and Cheer were almost born into a world of neglect and mistreatment. They almost didn’t receive enough care or human interaction to survive.
But luckily for them ... almost doesn’t count.
In foster care their personalities blossomed. Cheer became the little rebel. And, Hope was deemed the angel. Wherever foster mom went, Hope could be found padding along behind her peering up with soft, brown eyes.
And, by the time they came back to Animal Friends they knew how to walk on leashes and sit for treats. They knew how to love and be loved. And soon, they found their adoptive homes where they would become beloved members of the family.
At Animal Friends, our residents' pasts are filled with a lot of “almosts.” Almost starved. Almost left for dead. Almost didn’t survive. Almost.
We never want to see these almosts become realities. And because of you they never will.
Because of you, lifesaving rescues like this one are possible.
Because of you, spay and neuter is affordable and accessible so fewer pets end up unwanted or abused. Because of you, each year at Animal Friends 2,500 animals are given much-needed behavioral and holistic care.
Because of you, animals in crisis – like Hope and Cheer – are given another chance. But there are still other pets who need you to turn their almosts into happy endings.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Animal Friends' Annual Straw Drop: Free Straw for Outdoor Pets and Feral Cats

To prepare for falling temperatures, we're hosting our annual Straw Drop. Free bags of straw are offered to anyone who owns or cares for outdoor animals – including feral and community cats.

While Animal Friends encourages pet owners to make pets part of the family and keep them inside the home, we recognize that this is not always possible. Animal Friends urges those caretakers to obey the law by ensuring that outdoor animals have access to proper food and warm, dry shelters. Blankets, towels and pillows can retain moisture and freeze, which is why straw is the best insulation against the cold and wet weather conditions.

In addition to keeping outdoor animals’ living spaces insulated, there are other best practices pet owners should abide by, including:

• Using a car mat or rug as a flap over a doghouse door to keep the inside free of wind, snow and rain.
• Examining shelters carefully – and often – to ensure that there are no cracks or holes that will prevent the structure from keeping the animal safe.
• Taking extra care to provide adequate amounts of drinkable water and food at all times during freezing temperatures.
• Inspecting your pet's paws, ears and tail frequently for signs of frostbite – a very common occurrence. If you suspect frostbite, your pet will need to see a veterinarian immediately.
• Monitoring your dog's tether to ensure it is not frozen to the ground or tangled. A tangled, too-short chain can cost your pet his or her life in bad weather.

Animal Friends is located at 562 Camp Horne Rd. in the North Hills – just a half of a mile west of Exit 8 off of Interstate 279. 

Free bags of straw can be picked up at Animal Friends seven days a week. On a limited basis, straw delivery may be available for those without transportation. 

For more information, call Animal Friends at 412.847.7000 or visit

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Holiday Pet Hazards: Keep Your Pets Safe This Season

By the staff at Petagogy
‘Tis the season for decorations, parties and food galore! It is a festive time with lots to smile about, but as you prepare your home for your holiday festivities keep in mind some simple safety measures to help keep your four-legged family members safe.

Christmas Trees and Holiday Plants
Cats and dogs may be (very) interested in the tree, and why not—it’s a little bit of the outdoors inside on those cold winter days. If your furry family member is interested in the pine tree in the corner make sure it is secured. A hefty cat on a branch or an excited jump by a pooch could topple the tree on to more than just the neatly wrapped boxes underneath. Also keep holiday plants off the ground as many seasonal plants, including holly, mistletoe, poinsettia, lilies, as well as Christmas tree water, can be toxic if ingested by your pets.

Be mindful of low hanging decorations. Jingle bells, tinsel, lights and ribbon might look like toys to your pets. A gentle swat with a paw could lead to chewing and swallowing, which could lead to an emergency trip to the vet.

Holiday Feasts
A highlight of the holiday season is the food. Serving sweets to your guests? Keep them up high out of your pooch’s reach. Chocolate and artificial sweetener (xylitol) are very bad for your pet. Although a few bites of plain turkey or vegetables are fine, the spices, sauces and butter used to make the turkey and sides delicious for your guests are not, so keep leftovers out of the dog bowl and encourage guests not to feed pets from their plate. No turkey or ham bones either—once the bones have been cooked they pose a serious hazard for your pets. Raw, uncooked bones are often safe, but when they are cooked they become hard and can crack, splinter or be come lodged in the throat. Still want to give your pet a holiday treat? Some high-quality food companies make special foods that you can give your pets around the holidays—try Merrick’s Venison Holiday Stew or Christmas Day Dinner for your pup. 

Holiday Guests
Family and friends may be coming to visit over the holidays or perhaps you are planning a holiday party. Guests may enjoy a holiday libation and can become lax about making sure doors and gates are closed, or may leave their adult beverage within your pet’s reach--both can be dangerous to your furry friends. In situations where your guests may not be pet savvy or they may not make the “best” decisions, it might be best to board your pet, or keep them separated in another room for the evening. Also make sure they are wearing current ID tags and are micro-chipped in case they escape during the flow of guests in and out of your house.

Gifts for Your Pet
People love to spoil other people’s pets and may want to buy something tasty for your furkids. Be cautious; not everyone reads FDA warnings and may be unaware that certain chicken jerky and other treats made in China have been making pets sick. If you don’t trust the brand or know where the ingredients are sourced from, be gracious but don’t risk giving it to your pet just to be polite to the gift-giver. I promise your pet won’t rat you out.

Petagogy (pronounced pet-uh-go-jee) specializes in premium and natural pet foods, treats and supplies. Petagogy is located at 5880 Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside. Store hours are Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm and Sunday from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. Learn more at