Special Delivery: U.S. Post Office and Ellen DeGeneres team up for shelter animals

June 24, 2010 by Tails Magazine in June 2010 with 0 Comments

Ellen Degeneres

“When I love something, I wanna share it with ya’ll.” Those were Ellen DeGeneres’ words on the Ellen DeGeneres Show when she announced becoming co-owner of Halo, Purely for Pets, an organic, holistic pet food company.

She shared a similar enthusiastic “Wait-till-you-hear-this-one, guys” moment when she invited U.S. Postmaster General John E. Potter to her March 17 talk show to announce the launch of the United States Postal Service (USPS) Stamps to the Rescue campaign and its creation of Animal Rescue: Adopt a Shelter Pet commemorative postage stamps.

On the same show, DeGeneres announced that Halo would be joining the USPS’ efforts with its own “Give Shelter Pets a First Class Meal,” Halo’s promise to donate 1 million meals to shelter pets in conjunction with the Stamps to the Rescue initiative.

DeGeneres hosted a special dedication ceremony in Los Angeles on April 30, the day the stamps became officially available for purchase at the post office. By then, more than a quarter of a million rescue stamps had already been pre-ordered online and quarter of a million Halo Spot’s Stew meals had been donated.

DeGeneres declared, “This is a subject that I am extremely passionate about. By working together, we can find good homes for millions of adoptable, homeless, and abandoned pets. And until they get adopted, I’m happy to say that Halo and I are giving 1 million meals to shelter pets waiting for you.”

Donating that amount of kibble is no small feat, but the good folks at Halo not only think it’s doable; they hope to do more.

“No, we don’t think small,” says Halo CEO Steve Marton. “But it was an easy decision to make this commitment, given the large number of homeless pets in shelters and our desire and commitment to help them. In fact, we hope that it won’t be too long before we are in a position to make a 2-million meal commitment.”

As one of the country’s most influential and high-profile animal advocates, DeGeneres’ willingness to jump in with both feet to partner on this important initiative is hardly surprising. It’s also not surprising Potter chose to focus this year’s USPS social-awareness cause on adopting shelter pets, as he’s an animal lover and enjoys spending time with his pooch at home. But he also might have been swayed toward promoting an animal-welfare issue given the popularity of USPS 2002 social-awareness Neuter or Spay stamp. A full 100 percent of all 200 million stamps were sold.

When Stamps to the Rescue was announced, Potter noted in a USPS press release, “These [social-awareness] stamps continue a postal service tradition of bringing attention to serious social issues of the day … one letter at a time. This campaign will increase public awareness about sheltered pets, and our hope is that it will encourage pet adoption and promote humane and responsible pet care.”

Becoming stampworthy

Clearing the hoops involved in producing a new U.S. postage stamp require varying amounts of time and tenacity. Creating a new semi-postal stamp, a fundraising stamp to benefit causes that the postal service determines to be in the national interest, requires nothing less than the passage of an act of Congress. Currently, the only semi-postal stamp in circulation is the Breast Cancer Research Stamp.

Creating a commemorative stamp bearing the image of an individual is comparatively easy. The candidate has to be an iconic American who has been deceased for at last five years. Should you fall into the elite category of having served as president of the United States, your image is eligible for stamphood on the first birthday following your passing.

On the other hand, becoming the featured cause on a USPS social-awareness stamp is roughly as easy as winning the lottery. A dedicated group of individuals working at the USPS wade through requests for social-awareness stamps and then choose candidates to present to the Postmaster General for final selection. Like all social-awareness campaigns, Stamps to the Rescue has been in the works for a few years.

Why do so many well-meaning organizations and causes clamor for this honor? Quite simply, the USPS social-awareness campaign works.

“We know social-awareness stamps are successful because of the amount of media attention they receive,” explains Sue Brennan, spokesperson for the USPS. “The Breast Cancer Research stamp is a social-awareness and a semi-postal stamp. Since 1998, it has generated more than $60 million in voluntary contributions to the cause.”

She adds, “For Stamps to the Rescue, we are, for the first time, using social media to get the word out—Facebook and Twitter, for example. And so far the response has been very good.”
The USPS is making it nearly impossible for people to ignore its latest campaign: 33,000 posters featuring Stamps to the Rescue are on display in every post office across the country. Even if you make it up to the post office counter with blinders on, you’d be hard-pressed to miss one of the 55,000 counter cards touting the program. The USPS will print 300 million stamps; should they sell out, the USPS will print more.

Shooting the stamp stars

Photographer Sally Andersen-Bruce might well be dubbed photographer to the USPS stars, having snapped the images for several USPS stamp campaigns, including the Neuter or Spay, Classic American Dolls, and Antique American Toys series. After she finished taking photos of shelter animals for the Neuter or Spay stamps, Andersen-Bruce continued going back on her own to take more photos.

“I was mesmerized,” she says. “The animals’ expressions alone tell stories. I started going back to the shelters and still go back today. I have this idea of eventually working with rescue shelters and writing a book about the stories of these animals.”

By the time she was commissioned to photograph Stamps to the Rescue by USPS Art Director Derry Noyes, Andersen-Bruce had produced six images perfect for the series from photos taken back in 2002. She submitted the final Stamps to the Rescue photographs in 2006. All 10 dogs and cats came from the Animal Welfare Society in New Milford, CT, and all 10 were later adopted. One bittersweet story among the happy endings involves Bianca, the Stamps to the Rescue calico cat. The elderstatescat had found a forever home in the shelter’s senior-to-senior program and has since passed away. But as Andersen-Bruce noted, “At least she was in a forever home for the rest of her life.”

Stamping up the effort

So what can you do to help Stamps to the Rescue get out the word to adopt a shelter pet? It’s simple: Buy a book of the Animal Rescue: Adopt a Shelter Pet commemorative postage stamps. It’s the best (and possibly cutest) $8.80 you’ll ever spend. Then you can take Stamps to the Rescue one step further by participating in the Tails letter-writing campaign asking President Obama to declare April 30 National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day, in recognition of the USPS Stamps to the Rescue launch date. The letters are already written for you. All you have to do is download them, place a Stamps to the Rescue stamp on the envelope, and send it to the White House. See LettersforPets.com for more details.

For More Information:

Stamps to the Rescue: StampsToTherescue.comTwitter.com/wedeliver4you, and

Halo Purely for Pets: HaloPets.com

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