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2018-12-12 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

To give or not to give? That is the que$tion. Holiday spirit, Salvation Army bells and the tax year ending stir generosity within us. Pet lovers often add animal causes to their list of charitable donations. It seems in December we are overwhelmed with pleas from various organizations asking for monetary assistance.

Although our pets trust unconditionally, we need to be a bit more discriminating when considering where to donate money. It’s important to choose animal non-profits wisely. Donors can disperse their generosity by helping both national and grassroots groups; or instead streamline gifts toward specific rescue or research projects.

Guidelines for Choosing Reputable Charities: When donating, we want to know how our contributions will be used. We must be watchful that most of each dollar goes directly to the animals in need. A donation is tax deductible if a charity has 501 (c) (3) non-profit status but this does not assure financial responsibility, ethics or sound policy. (Even animal hoarders can apply to be non-profit.) Therefore:

1) Decide the type of cause you want to support. There are vast differences between animal rescues and animal rights groups. Make sure the charity backs practices and legislation you believe in.

2) On a national and local level, don’t be fooled by the smoke and mirrors of fancy websites or give-away gimmicks. A humane society sent you unsolicited cat socks in the mail. That doesn’t mean you are obligated to write a check to that society. Read the newsletters and press about the organization. Do not buy into every animal saga that you read. Trust your instincts when gauging exploitation versus accomplishment.

3) With grassroots rescues, get an inside look. Join the group. Speak to people who have adopted or sought help from them. Does the group take back their own pets? Assess honesty, longevity and pet smarts.

4) Make sure at least 75% of all revenue is spent on the charitable cause and not on administrative and fundraising expenses, especially telemarketing. Contact the group and ask to see financial statements.

5) Check the charity watchdogs: a) Charity Navigator compares animal charities, gives 1 to 4 star rating, and provides pie graph breakdowns; b) consult Better Business Wise Giving Alliance (; c) Guide Star is a database of 2.5 million non-profits. Register online first to view actual IRS forms; d) or call the NYS Charities Bureau at the Attorney General’s Office 518-486-9797 or 212-416- 8402 to inquire about fundraising or charitable status.

Personalizing Your Generosity: Pet lovers have distinct concerns near and dear to their hearts. Many dog lovers fancy particular breeds; others care about rescuing homeless dogs. We can combine these passions by donating to specific purebred rescue groups. The AKC website has a list of national club links. You can also Google your preferred breed and rescues will surface.

Most owners have lost beloved animal companions to common or rare diseases. Memorial donations are a wonderful way to remember departed pets. The AKC Canine Health Foundation ( has designated breed parent club funds and charitable trusts researching ailments that plague particular breeds such as the Darcy Fund, designed to combat chronic valve disease in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and other small breeds. The Greyhound Project has a matching cancer fund program with the Morris Animal Fund (MAF); or contributors to MAF can designate their checks to the Canine Cancer Campaign, Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, Healthy Cat Campaign, behavior, wildlife or even donor-advised toward a specific study.

Since its beginning 70 years ago, MAF has invested more than $126 million in 2,670+ studies that have improved the health and quality of life of dogs, cats, horses and wildlife. Until December 31, all gifts up to $100,000 are being matched 100% by a group of generous donors.

For over 50 years the Winn Feline Foundation has been funding studies to improve the health and welfare of cats. To date, Winn has funded over $6.4 million in health research for cats at more than 30 partner institutions worldwide.

At the university level, donors can give to distinct veterinary areas such as Cornell’s Baker Institute (infectious disease), Sprecher Institute (comparative cancer) or Feline Health Center. Each college has a teaching clinic such as the University of Pennsylvania’s Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital where donations assist both student interns and companion animals. My veterinarians are Cornell graduates. Each year they sponsor a scholarship for a current Cornell vet student chosen by the university by matching donations from their clients 100%.

Pet Memorial Gifts: Reputable groups acknowledge memorial monies sent in sympathy to friends who have lost a pet. The organizations send either letters or sympathy cards to the owner with the pet and donor’s name, while official tax letters are mailed to the donors.

Trees of Love: On Saturday, December 15 from 4-7 p.m., Last Hope

Animal Rescue will continue a holiday tradition begun in 1998 by hosting “Trees of Love” at the Last Hope Adoption Center located at 3300 Beltagh Avenue in Wantagh 11793. Refreshments will be served along with the tree lighting ceremony.

Prior to the lighting of two decorated trees, participants purchase ribbons for $10 each. Gold ribbons honor living pets and red ribbons memorialize late pets. Pets’ names are written on the ribbons. A third tree is decorated in green ribbons only, but these are to remember the countless discarded pets throughout the country euthanized each year at overcrowded shelters. Supporters can also purchase these symbolic ribbons too. The public is invited. Ribbons are ordered in advance at More are sold and personalized at the event.

Adoptable at Babylon Shelter, 631-643-9270, 80 New Highway, Amityville: Poor “Peter Pan” 8-545 a gray and white tabby grew up at the shelter. He arrived in March at two weeks old. Meanwhile, “Neka” 18-526 is an adorable, senior Maltese found in Lindenhurst. He had 20 teeth extracted at the shelter’s vet and still can nosh away on Milkbones. Both deserve homes for the holidays.

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