Story by Alyvia Covert and Kelsey O’Connor

ITHACA, N.Y. — The holidays are a time for celebrating with family — and for some local families, adding a furry companion.

Dogs are a common sight in Ithaca. There are just over 900 registered with the City of Ithaca, and likely a good number more that are not.

The holidays does tend to be a popular time for adoptions, according to Jim Bouderau, executive director of the Tompkins County SPCA.

While the debate continues around giving pets as holiday gifts, Bouderau said in Tompkins County it is actually less common for a pet to be surrendered following the holidays. In fact, Bouderau said the holidays could be a good time to introduce a pet to the family.

“We think that the holidays are actually a great time to introduce a new pet into the family,” Bouderau said. “Many people have time off around the holidays or may be on vacation or on breaks from the local universities where they have more time to acclimate a new pet into their new home.”

Bouderau said the SPCA runs an adoption promotion around this time of year called “Home for the Holidays,” where adoption fees are waived on many of the animals up for adoption. Currently, adoption fees will be waived on many of the animals until the end of the month in hopes that they will find a hope as soon as possible.

Giving pets as gifts is still a concern for local shelters even though pet surrenders following the holidays is not a trend seen locally as a result of pet adoptions leading up to the holidays.

In a 2013 ASPCA study, researchers found that 96 percent of people who received pets as gifts said it had no impact on their love for the pet and some even reported that affection for the pet increased. The study also found that 86 percent of pets referred to in the study were still in the homes they were ‘gifted’ to.

“We would never suggest giving a pet as a gift to someone who was not expecting one, nor would we adopt to someone with the intention of doing so,” Bouderau said. “We want the new adopter to be on board with the decision and understand the responsibility of pet ownership.” 

There are instances, Bouderau said he excludes from gifting pets as a surprise, such as a family decision where parents choose the holidays to introduce a new pet to the family as a surprise “gift” to their children.

Dogs of Ithaca

Curious to know more about the dogs registered in Ithaca, and a little inspired by some fascinating names uncovered in pet data in Boston, The Ithaca Voice requested the City of Ithaca’s dog data. We took a look at the most common names and breeds currently registered.

Mutts, or mixed breeds, are the clear top dogs in Ithaca, followed by Lab mixes and Labrador retrievers.

There are 907 dogs registered with the City of Ithaca. In New York, dogs must be registered with their municipality and dog licenses are valid for one year. Need to register a dog? Stop by City Hall for forms and more information.

The data also showed the most common and most unique names in town. Falling line with national trends, the top names in Ithaca are Lucy, Maggie, Molly and Sadie.

Ithacans also seem to like naming their pups after snacks. There is a dog actually named Snacks, as well as Taco, Cookie Dough, Kimchi and three dogs named Oreo.

There are some other unique names on the list, too, such as Lump O’Coal (our favorite), Weezy, Princess Jasmin, Sir Douglas, Bags, Honey Bunch and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Art by Jacob Mroczek. Data Visualization by Kelsey O’Connor