Animals get a new leash -- er, lease -- on life

57 animals brought to Animal Friends in annual rescue

They came in one by one, to applause, "aahs" and an "ooh" or two -- Cindy Lou Who and Horton and Mayze McGrew.

No one is trying to pass for Dr. Seuss here, but the spirit of the beloved children's book author was very much present Monday at Animal Friends' 17th annual New Year's Eve rescue.

The center took in 32 cats and 25 dogs that had been slated to be euthanized after either being lost, casually abandoned or reluctantly given up.

Starting at 9 a.m. Tuesday, the animals were given a new lease on life -- and new names from characters in Dr. Seuss's 44 books -- after being brought in from kennels and shelters in Allegheny, Westmoreland and Greene counties to the Ohio Township center, which was jammed with volunteers, staffers and animal lovers.

"It was a record year for cats," said Christy Bostardi, a spokeswoman for Animal Friends. "It always depends on what animals are remaining at the shelters and animal control facilities. I don't know if this is a trend."

Animal Friends does two of these rescues every year -- on New Year's Eve and the Fourth of July, or "Liberation Day," she said, to highlight the huge numbers of pets that are euthanized, and to show the public the value of adopting a homeless pet, as well as the need to tag and license them.

This is a particularly tricky time of year to be a pet, said Ms. Bostardi. "The commotion of the holidays sometimes means that a domestic animal will get disconnected," and animal control facilities are quickly overwhelmed.

One of the center's volunteers, Carlene Hagerich of Penn Hills, conducted her own rescue at Halloween when she spied a little dog shivering in the pouring rain in her backyard. The pooch had no leash and no tag, but after about a half-hour, came to her when she offered soft food on her back porch.

"I posted her picture on Facebook, but nobody claimed her," she said, and today Bella Boo -- named in honor of the day she was discovered -- is a member of Ms. Hagerich's family of two dogs and two cats.

The center not only shelters animals and provides adoption services but holds classes on pet behavior, pet assisted therapy and wellness. It also has developed a community-wide spay-neuter initiative at low or no cost to low-income pet owners, feral cat colony caretakers, pit bull owners and other shelters, in the hope of eventually ending pet overpopulation and unnecessary euthanasia.

Animal Shelter's animals are euthanized only when their quality of life is threatened or they're considered unsafe for the community.

At this New Year's Eve rescue, though, there was no whiff of the gallows -- instead a gala, celebratory air prevailed.

Immediately upon being brought into the lobby, each animal received a close look by the naming committee and was given an appropriate moniker -- a mixed breed boxer with a "tortie," or tortoiseshell coat, was dubbed Yertle the Turtle -- and whisked off for a shower, a medical evaluation, and tagging and licensing.

Then, as early as Thursday, the animals will begin to be available for adoption.

How to help

These organizations can help you research and adopt a pet:

Animal Friends:

Animal Rescue League:

Western Pa Humane Society:

Mackenzie Carpenter:, 412-263-1949 or on Twitter @MackenziePG. First Published December 31, 2013 11:50 PM