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Halloween Pet Safety Tips for a Safe Holiday

The Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) and Boston Veterinary Care (BVC) share important tips to keep your pets safe and happy this Halloween season.

Boston Terrier in Halloween costume

Tip: If it’s your pet’s first time wearing a costume this Halloween, spend a few days before the big holiday getting them acclimated to wearing it. Keep in mind, some pets are just not fans of wearing costumes and would much rather wear a festive collar or bandanna instead.

With the month of October almost half over, Halloween 2021 is right around the corner! You may be a fan of the spookiest time of year, but for your pet, this haunting holiday can be truly scary.

Not to worry though, enjoying the festivities and keeping your pets safe is easier than you think – Follow these 3 tips to ensure your pet has a safe Halloween this season:

1. Keep your pets inside. The Halloween season often brings out tricksters who might taunt or harm an animal left outdoors. It’s always a good idea to keep pets inside with proper, up-to-date identification. If your pet must be outdoors, be sure to keep them leashed and an eye on them at all times.

2. Stash the sweet treats. Chocolate, especially darker chocolates, are highly toxic to cats and dogs. Additionally, many candies and gums contain Xylitol. This sugarless sweetener is highly toxic to pets. Always keep chocolate and candies out of your pet’s reach.

3. Be careful with costumes. If you decide to dress your pet up for this festive holiday, costume safety is key. Keep these costume safety tips in mind:

  • Always supervise your pet while they’re wearing a costume.
  • Make sure your pet’s costume fits properly and does not restrict their movement.
  • Be cautious of loose or dangling pieces that pets could potentially choke on.
  • Ditch the masks or other accessories that could potentially make it difficult for your pet to breath or obstruct their vision.

No plans for Halloween? Spend the day getting to know some of our adoptable animals.


ARL, Animal-Related Budget Items to be Debated in State Legislature

Annually, the Massachusetts Legislature debates to prioritize and solidify a state budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

After the Governor files suggestions in January, both branches of the legislature work together to hold hearings to discuss revenue and issues facing the Commonwealth.

The House then releases and debates a budget in April, with the Senate debating theirs in May.

The budget includes funding for state programs, so-called “earmarks” to address specific concerns of legislators, and “outside sections” that include policy changes that do not deal with funding.

Over 1,000 amendments are filed in each branch, and both branches take multiple days of deliberation.

After both budgets are debated, a conference committee of six legislators will work together to come to agreement on each item.

Budget amendments are filed on a variety of topics, to both increase existing funding and add new funding.

The State House will be conducting the debate mostly virtually, and you can watch along on https://malegislature.gov/

Animal-Related Budget Items

There are three amendments filed to the House budget that would directly improve the lives of animals in Massachusetts.

#433 Mass Animal Fund

The Massachusetts Homeless Animal Prevention and Care Fund (MAF) helps provide spay/neuter to some of the most in-need residents across the commonwealth.

While some of the funding for this comes from an optional check-the-box on your taxes (33f if you haven’t filed your taxes yet), over the past few years the fund has been supplemented by funding secured in the budget.

This amendment would increase funding to MDAR for this fund.

#721 Hen Welfare

In 2016, Massachusetts passed a first-of-its kind law through ballot initiative to require that all whole eggs sold in Massachusetts be “cage-free” and fit certain requirements.

As other states have passed similar laws, they have adopted other protections and adopted a slightly different standard.

This amendment, also filed as a stand-alone bill, would strengthen hen welfare by affecting more hens and requiring more enrichment for these animals.

#1002 Animal Rescue League of Boston

For the first time, ARL is seeking funding from the state to help us continue our community programs, which include the Wellness Waggin’ and Spay Waggin’.

Over the past year, we have seen incredible need in the communities we serve, and the need only continues to grow.

This funding would help ARL continue the critical community work we do, and help pets in the process.

Your Voice Matters!

As always, legislators rely on their constituents to reach out to them and share their priorities.

As a constituent, ask them to support these amendments and the welfare of animals in the FY22 budget.

The House will begin their budget debate early next week, so make sure to speak up for animals now!

For an example of how to format your email to your legislators, click here.

Find your representative here: https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator

Together, we can provide a better Commonwealth of Massachusetts for animals – Thank you!

Benji’s Remarkable Transformation

ARL granted bond request in case

In 2017, legislation was enacted in an effort to strengthen financial protections for animal care facilities like the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL), who provide long-term care for an animal who is the subject of an active animal cruelty investigation and prosecution.

The legislation allows the prosecuting agency to request a court order for the accused to post a security bond, which can be used to recuperate costs of shelter, food, medical care, behavioral training, and other related costs.

If granted, the accused would have to either cover the bond or forfeit the animal.

ARL staunchly advocated for this piece of legislation, and in early 2021 ARL was granted a bond in a case dating back to late 2019. It was the first time since the passage of the legislation that ARL was granted such a bond.

Benji’s Story

ARL’s Law Enforcement Department took custody of Benji, now a four-year-old pitbull-type dog in November 2019 – along with dehydration, skin issues, foreign material in his stomach and other medical concerns, he was severely emaciated, weighing just 30 pounds, about half of what he should’ve weighed at the time.

Animal cruelty charges were filed, and while the case made its way through the judicial system, the incredibly friendly and resilient dog began his long journey to recovery.

Given the level of his emaciation, he was put on a strict feeding program and placed into foster care.

With dozens of shelter medicine visits and plenty of love and care, over time Benji got back to a normal weight, and his persistent skin issues were treated.

Case Closed

In early 2021, ARL was granted the security bond, and the accused ultimately agreed to forfeit Benji.

Caring for Benji for well over a year, his foster family had formed an amazing, loving bond, and wound up adopting him!

Benji Adopted

Advocating for Animals

The 2021-2022 Massachusetts legislative has begun and ARL’s Advocacy Department will continue to push for statewide legislation on issues critical to animal welfare in the Commonwealth.

Click here to see ARL’s legislative agenda and for more information on how you can be a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves.

ARL’s Spay Waggin’ Hosted at Zoo New England’s Franklin Park Zoo

Inaugural visit coincided with World Spay Day

The Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) launched its newest Spay Waggin’ location this week at the iconic Franklin Park Zoo, to serve residents in surrounding communities seeking low-cost, high-quality spay and neuter services for their dogs or cats.

The kickoff also coincided with World Spay Day, an international day of action promoting spay and neuter.

Twenty six pets received the important surgery, and ARL and Zoo New England were also joined by the Massachusetts Animal Fund and members of the media to mark the occasion.

“We are excited for the opportunity to offer a second Spay Waggin’ stop in the City of Boston,” said Dr. Edward Schettino, ARL President and CEO. “Zoo New England has been incredibly supportive of this initiative, and it will allow ARL to serve even more animals in the Greater Boston area.”

“We are happy to partner with the Animal Rescue League to bring this important service to residents who live near Franklin Park Zoo,” said John Linehan, Zoo New England President and CEO. “We care deeply about the health and well-being of animals, and we hope that this opportunity provides ease to residents in caring for their pets.”

The Spay Waggin’ will return to the Franklin Park Zoo on a monthly basis and will be parked near the Zebra entrance at the Zoo.

For future appointments log onto arlboston.org/spay-waggin or call 1-877-590-SPAY (7729).

About the Spay Waggin’

ARL’s Spay Waggin’ is a state-of-the-art mobile spay/neuter clinic that has provided the service for more than 65,000 animals since first hitting the road in 2000.

While the Spay Waggin’ has primarily served the South Shore, South Coast and Cape Cod communities, in 2020 the Spay Waggin’ returned to the city with a stop in East Boston, and the new Franklin Park Zoo stop will further broaden the reach to Metro Boston residents.

The Benefits of Spay/Neuter

There are numerous reasons to spay/neuter your pet, including:

    • Curb pet overpopulation and make your pet healthier
    • Reduce the number of homeless pets euthanized – In the U.S., an estimated 6-8 million homeless animals enter animal shelters every year
    • Spayed or neutered dogs and cats on average have a longer lifespan than intact animals
    • Increased longevity of altered pets involves the reduced risk of certain type of cancers including uterine cancer and cancers of reproductive tract
    • Spaying females prior to their first heat cycle has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer, uterine infections, and uterine cancer
    • Reduce unruly behavior

Are you looking for high-quality, low-cost pet wellness care? Check out ARL’s Wellness Waggin’. 

Looking to Lend a Paw?

Your gift today, in any amount, can help support efforts to spay/neuter animals. Click here to make a donation today.

Spay and neuter symbolic gifts

Tis the Season for fun contests!

Help spread cheer this season by participating or voting!

Ugly Sweater Contest

Did you know that the third Friday in December marks National Ugly Sweater Day? What better reason to break out your ugliest holiday sweater and pose with your pets!

All you need to do to enter is to submit a photo of yourself in your most festive sweater with your favorite animal friend OR a photo of your pet in holiday attire or accessories. Photos can be sent to marketing@arlboston.org or tag us on social media on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Contest opens: Wednesday, December 9

Deadline to submit your photo: Wednesday, December 16 at Midnight

Voting: Begins at 9AM on Friday, December 18, National Ugly Sweater Day!

    • Four finalists will be selected by ARL and votes will be cast on social media.
    • Each entry will be assigned a number. To vote, comment on the social posts with the number of your favorite finalist. Please, just one vote per person, but you can ask your friends and family to vote!
    • The winner will be announced at 5pm on Friday, December 18.
    • The winner will receive ARL Swag and bragging rights!

Coloring Contest

Show off your creativity and coloring skills in this contest that is suitable for all ages!

Download our printable coloring sheet by clicking here.


barn coloring page

We’re asking contestants to show us how you would decorate our Dedham Barn for the Winter Holidays.  Make it as festive as you like, but don’t forget to add animals!

We have many adoptable livestock animals that would make the scene look perfect.

ARL Barn animals

All you need to do to enter is to submit your completed coloring page by emailing marketing@arlboston.orgor tagging us on social media on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Contest opens: Wednesday, December 9

Deadline to submit your coloring page: Tuesday, December 22 at Midnight

Voting: Begins at 9AM on Monday, December 28

    • Finalists will be selected by ARL and votes will be cast on social media.
    • Each entry will be assigned a number. To vote, comment on the social posts with the number of your favorite finalist.
      Please, just one vote per person, but you can ask your friends and family to vote!
    • The winner will be announced at 5pm on December 28.
    • The winner will receive ARL Swag and bragging rights!


Thank you to our Paws to Celebrate event sponsors

On October 7, 2020, the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) hosted the 3rd annual Paws to Celebrate event to honor the organization’s supporters and highlight the remarkable impact of their generosity during this year of uncertainty.

This year’s event was hosted virtually, though it did not diminish the purpose nor the success of the event: thanks in large part to dedicated corporate and individual sponsorships, the event raised more than $83,500 in funds that will benefit animals in need and the people who love them.

ARL graciously recognizes the 2020 Paws to Celebrate sponsors and event committee, listed below, for their shared passion for animals in need. Together with ARL’s donors, their generosity will ensure that the animals that ARL serves will continue to receive the loving care they deserve.

Thank you to our generous sponsors

Leader of the Pack


Best in Show

Best in show logos


Top Dog


Top Dog sponsors

Top Cat

Top Cat sponsors


Animal Advocate

Alison Erbig and William Goldberg

Dedham Savings


The McCreary Family

Wade Gulbransen

and to the event committee:

Mary Bainbridge, Beth Baker, Kristin Casey, David Cawley, Richard Davey, Alison Erbig, Richard Kelly, Walter Kenyon, Cynthia Kettyle, Elena Kirkiles, Constance Lacaillade, Anne-Marie Litchfield, Patti Lotane, Mark & Mikki Manganaro, Christina Nagler, Tara Oliver, Alisa Plazonja, Christopher Primiano, Heather & Park Ridill, Kim Roderiques, José Rodriguez-Villalobos, and Laura Tomasetti

Legislating in the Time of COVID-19

All of our lives have been changed drastically by the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Massachusetts Legislature is no different.

What is usually a flurry of activity in April, May, June, and July, the legislature saw a very different pace this year.

A series of interim budgets replaced the usual days-long debate in the House and Senate in April and May. For the first time in its history, members used video conferencing software to hold hearings and were able to call into legislative sessions to vote and debate.

The State House building itself, usually bustling with legislators, staff, press, school groups, tourists, and advocates, sat dormant except for a limited number of legislators and staff.

Lobby days, including ARL’s event geared towards animal protection legislation, were first postponed then ultimately canceled, and advocates turned to phone and email to connect with legislators.

In another historic measure, last week, the Massachusetts Legislature took the unprecedented step of suspending the rule requiring formal session end on July 31 on the second year of the session. While unprecedented, it was all but inevitable as the scope and reality of economic and health impacts became clear.

The formal legislative session will now run through the end of the year.

There are several bills in conference, as small groups of legislators from the House and the Senate try and come to final agreement. The legislature still used the last few days of July to take up and pass a number of bills, but the timeline is extended through the fall.

What does this mean for ARL’s bills?

The legislature will still be able to do business and are likely to debate a full budget this fall. In the meantime, there is a focus on those issues that are directly related to COVID-19.

We are constantly monitoring the legislature, so stay tuned to our social media to learn about any updates. View ARL’s Legislative Agenda.

Animals need your voice today!

The Massachusetts Legislature operates on a two-year timeline, with a deadline of February 5, 2020 to move bills forward from initial committees. The following bills are on ARL’s Legislative Agenda and need your help to move forward.

S. 989: An Act enhancing the issuance of citations for cruel conditions for animals
Allows law enforcement to issue citations for all animals in “cruel conditions” to intervene before it rises to the level of felony animal cruelty.

Joint Committee on Municipalities

House Chair, Representative James O’Day: (617) 722-2090 James.O’Day@mahouse.gov

Senate Chair, Senator Rebecca Rausch: (617) 722-1555 Becca.Rausch@masenate.gov

H.1822: An Act enhancing the issuance of citations for cruel conditions for animals
Allows law enforcement to issue citations for all animals in “cruel conditions” to intervene before it rises to the level of felony animal cruelty.

H.1774/S.114: An Act protecting the health and safety of puppies and kittens in cities and towns
Regulates the operation of boarding kennels and daycare facilities, as well as prohibits roadside sales and sales of puppies and kittens under 8 weeks.

Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure

House Chair, Representative Tackey Chan: (617) 722-2014 Tackey.Chan@mahouse.gov

Senate Chair, Senator Paul Feeney: (617) 722-1222 Paul.Feeney@masenate.gov

S.175/H.800: An Act banning the retail sale of cats and dogs in pet shops
Prohibits the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits from pet shops unless the animals come from shelters or rescue organizations.

TAKE ACTION: Contact the committee chairs and your legislators to ask them to support these bills out of committee!

Joint Committee on the Judiciary

House Chair, Representative Claire Cronin: (617) 722-2396 Claire.Cronin@mahouse.gov   

Senate Chair, Senator James Eldridge: (617) 722-1120 James.Eldridge@masenate.gov

A message from ARL’s President, Mary Nee

Animal Rescue League of Boston supporters,

I have some news that I want to share with you.

I have decided to retire in May 2020 and step down as President of the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL). I am honored to have served as ARL’s president since 2012, only the eighth person in 120 years to hold this position, and just the second woman, since our founder, Anna Harris Smith.

This decision is entirely personal as I am eager to join my husband Jim in retirement and begin the next chapter of our lives. I hope that this chapter will include some travel, and, an unscheduled life, with more time to read, reflect, and enjoy family and friends.

While my decision is personal, it is also made with a sense that ARL is in a very good place. Having established a strategic vision focused on serving animals and people most in need, we are seeing the benefits of this direction through increasing impact to the most vulnerable of our community.

In addition, the next five years will see new facilities and services that will further strengthen this amazing organization, with master planning and design work to replace aging facilities complete or well underway.  I am confident in our ability to achieve these goals and appreciate the continued effort that will be required for success. I believe it will be most beneficial for ARL to have in place leadership who can see these projects and progress through to completion, taking this historic animal welfare organization to even higher levels of innovation and impact.

I leave knowing that we have that leadership in ARL’s Board of Directors and our talented staff. The board has been closely involved in my retirement planning and are reviewing the skills and attributes desired in a new president. In the coming weeks they intend to communicate their plans for future leadership.

Anticipating retirement is exciting, but leaving ARL is difficult. My career has spanned nearly 43 years in mission-based organizations in Boston. Prior to coming to ARL, this work revolved around issues related to human or community conditions. In joining ARL, I thought I was taking a detour from my past work. I was wrong.

The world of animal welfare is inextricably linked to humans, both the good and the bad. This link and the complexity of navigating through animal and human conditions makes for fascinating and highly complex work. My experiences here have been both tremendously rewarding and, at the same time, eye opening.  I now look at community quite differently, particularly the interplay of humans, animals, and the environment. I cannot adequately convey all of my learnings here and I intend to share with you my reflections on this transformative experience in a future communication.

As some of you know, I have a favorite quote attributed to Justice David Souter that has always resonated with me in terms of one’s life’s work. “For most of us the very best work we do sinks into the stream very quickly. We have to find satisfaction in being part of the great stream.”

For me being part of ARL, its compassionate work and the tireless efforts of staff, volunteers and donors alike who have responded to nearly 125,000 animals over the past 7+ years, is enormously rewarding and I will cherish having been part of this great stream for the rest of my life.

In the coming months I hope I can connect with many of you that have supported my journey at ARL and in the Boston community to reminisce and say thank you. Your friendship and support has sustained my many professional adventures and made possible any measure of success achieved. For this, I am eternally grateful.


Mary signature

Mary Nee
Animal Rescue League of Boston

Click here to read Mary’s executive profile in the January 24, 2020 edition of the Boston Business Journal.   

Photo by Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff/Globe staff

DONATE NOW to DOUBLE your impact for animals

On December 3, ARL will participate in #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving back to the charities nearest and dearest to our hearts.

To celebrate this day of giving, our Board of Directors, past Board members, and President, have teamed up to offer a special challenge: Raise $120,000 and they will match it!

Our match goal is especially meaningful – this year we are marking the 120th anniversary of the founding of ARL. As we look ahead to the next 120 years, your generosity and kindness will ensure that ARL remains an unwavering champion for animals in need.

Make your gift between now and December 3 to make your life-saving gift go further for animals in need.  Your gift will be DOUBLED and help provide:

Symbolic gifts

Our #GivingTuesday goal is ambitious: $240,000 in 24 hours.  You can help make it happen!

Here are TWO ways to get involved to help make TWICE the difference!

  • Make your gift today! No need to wait and the deadline is tomorrow at midnight
  • Help spread the word! Share with your fellow animal lovers by sharing this post or posts on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages.

    Tune into our special, #GivingTuesday Facebook Live videos

    Monday, December 2, 2019 

    1:00 PM: ARL Shelter Veterinarian, Dr.Forline, introduces Gunner, a 10-month-old Pitbull-type dog who recently underwent heart surgery and is looking for a forever home. Click here to watch
    5:30 PM: Meet Tippie, a Cerebellar Hypoplasia kitty adopted from our Dedham Animal Care & Adoption Center earlier this year. Click here to watch

    Tuesday, December 3, 2019
    1:00 PM: Update on Charlotte with ARL’s Behavior & Enrichment Manager, Laney Nee. Click here to watch
    5:30 PM: Why your #GivingTuesday gift matters TWICE as much to animals in need with ARL’s President, Mary Nee. Click here to watch

Almost 60% of ARL’s funding comes in during the last quarter of the year – and most of it during the last two weeks in December.
  Your #GivingTuesday gift is essential to helping us reach our goal before the year ends.

THANK YOU to our Board of Directors, past Board members, and President for offering this amazing challenge!

Barbara Burg & Priscilla Golding

David Cawley & Lisa Buesking

Randi Cohen & Al Ossorio

Richard Davey & Jane Willis

Jeffrey A. Kaplan

Richard Kelly & Carol Akerson

Dr. Holly Kelsey

Walter & Elizabeth Kenyon

Lee Ann & Michael Leahy

Neal G. Litvack

Malcolm McDonald & Susan Passoni

Kelly & Brian McKernan

Christina & Daniel Nagler

Mary Nee & James Chapin

Tara & Christophe Oliver

Alisa Plazonja

Heather & Park Ridill

Malisa & Andrew Schuyler