Mr. Beefy


Mr. Beefy leapt into the arms of owner Julia Handeland after his successful neuter operation—just one of many heartwarming and emotional reunions between pet and owner at the Animal Rescue League of Iowa’s Spay and Neuter Clinic.

Julia and her husband found Mr. Beefy alone in a dumpster behind a local convenience store in Des Moines. “His mom got hit by a car, and the other babies froze to death,” she said. “He was the last one, so we took him in.”

With three other cats at home, Mr. Beefy is the latest addition to Julia’s family.

Mr. Beefy’s unique name came from a movie called Little Nicky. In the film, Mr. Beefy was a talking bulldog. While this Mr. Beefy isn’t a talking cat, Julia says her cat’s attitude is very much like his namesake’s.

The Animal Rescue League of Iowa provides regular spay/neuter clinics and free or low-cost spay/neuter programs for pets in Des Moines’ metro communities. Visit our website for more information.


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Summer Safety for Pets

This spring has been filled with heavy rain, but a hot summer is on the way. As the weather starts heating up, pet owners should keep a watchful eye on their furry friends.

Warm weather and water are a perfect combination to form a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are undoubtedly a nuisance for humans, but for unprotected dogs, one bite from an infected mosquito may prove fatal. Mosquitos can transmit heartworm to dogs. Heartworm is difficult to treat, but easy to prevent. Talk to your vet for prevention options.

Not only can mosquitoes give dogs heartworm, but people using bug spray or insect repellants against mosquitos and other pests should be wary of where they place their insecticides.

The chemicals in insecticides (and herbicides) can harm dogs and other animals. Try to find pet-safe insecticides and keep dogs off of treated lawns and gardens.

Dogs and cats who spend time outdoors should also be routinely inspected for ticks, fleas, and worms. Should your dog or cat have fleas, talk to your vet about the best options for treatment. Some animals may not respond to a topical treatment as well as others. Fleas are not picky about their hosts, so keep an eye on your non-fuzzy family members, too. On the bright side, dogs and cats cannot transmit lice to humans, but they can spread lice to their own species. (For example, dogs cannot contract head lice from humans, but they may contract dog lice from another dog.)

If your dog goes to a doggy daycare, groomer, or kennel, inform workers if your dog has fleas, lice, or any other parasites. The chances are high that other dogs might have them, too. It is important to allow them to take future preventative measures and inform other owners.

Ensure your pets have plenty of clean water and a place to stay cool. Dogs and cats with dark fur are especially at risk in hot weather. Other “at-risk” breeds of dogs (like the chihuahua or Mexican hairless) and cats (like the sphynx or Devon and Cornish Rexes) have lighter, thinner coats. It may be wise to invest in pet-safe sunscreen for extended outdoor playtime in the day.

One good “cool-down” method for some animals can be swimming in cool, clean water. Keep an eye on your pets near swimming pools and other bodies of water. A kiddie pool can be a good investment for dog owners, and a fun way to let out energy!

Perhaps the best “cool-down” idea is making pet-friendly popsicles. The whole family can get involved in this little DIY activity to cool down alongside their pet.

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Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat Month at the ARL

June is usually all about honoring our dads and grads, but did you know that it’s also national Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat Month? If you happened to see us on KCCI a few weeks ago, you know that the Animal Rescue League of Iowa currently has an abundance of shelter cats who would love to find their forever home!


CASH: Male, 4 years old. Bonded Buddies with Kick (Male, 4 y/o). Front-declawed. Likes: being petted, playing with toy balls, laser pointers and catnip toys. Shy around small children, so a home with older kids would be best.

The arrival of “kitten season” at the ARL means we have tons of energetic, playful kitties waiting for a home to grow up in! But if you’re looking for a more mellow companion, we also have lots of wonderful senior cats — available for our “Better With Age” adoption fee of $50.

For adopters who are concerned about cat scratching, many of the cats the ARL receives every week come to us already declawed. There are a number of simple and humane solutions that can allow a cat with claws to live peacefully in your home. Check out these tips, as well as other cat behavior tips in our book, For Love of Cats. If you are looking to adopt a new cat, or if you are seeking cat behavior help for your current pet, the ARL also offers free behavior consultations to the community. 


SOPHIE: Female, 2 y/o. Likes: chin rubs, being petted, chilling out/lounging on a comfy cat bed or cat tower by a window. Very sweet and affectionate.

We’re always looking for hosts to participate in our Shelter Cat Getaway program, which gives some of our long-term resident cats an opportunity to enjoy a break from the shelter and live temporarily in a foster home. Stop by our website to learn more or to sign up to be a foster!


Georgette: Female, 1.5 y/o. Beautiful muted tortoiseshell coat. Likes playing, lounging, or napping next to you. Did well with teenage children in previous home.

To keep tabs on our kitties from the comfort of your own home, check out our ARL Kitty Cam, which allows you to watch and even play with the cats using your keyboard controls.


SAMMY: Male, 6 y/o. Available for our “Better with Age” adoption fee ($50). Likes: People, comfy laps, cozy beds, being petted, watching the world outside from a sunny window. Very friendly. Gets along well with cat roommates at the shelter.

We’re getting ready for our annual Cat’s Meow event on June 25 — attendees will enjoy entertainment, food, a silent auction and more, all to benefit our ARL kitties! Visit our website to register and learn more.


POLLY: Female, 8 y/o. Available for our “Better with Age” adoption fee ($50). An independent lady who will say hello on her own terms. Curious about people and enjoys being petted, but plan on giving her time to adjust and feel secure in her new home.

This is the busiest time of the year for us and our cats, and every little bit helps. If you or someone you know is looking to adopt, foster or volunteer at the ARL, now is the purr-fect time!


DUCKIE: Female, 5 y/o. Bonded Buddies with Boomer (Female, 5 y/o). Front-declawed. Has a very unique short, curled tail. Likes being petted, finding quiet places to relax. Very, very sweet. Does well with children, other cats, and dogs who don’t bother her.


NYMPHADORA: Female, 5 y/o. Very playful and friendly, loves attention. Has done well with other cats.


FRISCO: Male, 5 y/o. Likes cuddling, being in the same room as his people. Laid-back, but can be active and playful, too. Tends to be afraid of children, so a home with older kids would be best.

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Spring Break Rescue Camp 2015

In March, we welcomed 16 campers to ARL Main for our Spring Break Rescue Camp! The kids, ranging from 3rd-5th grade, joined us for three days to learn how to love and care for pets of all shapes and sizes!

The campers spent each morning helping out with chores in the barn and learning all about horses, pigs and other barn animals. They played Grooming Tool Bingo, participated in a scavenger hunt and practiced their three horse gaits on the agility course!

Campers help out in the barn.


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Campers are introduced to Athena and Kiera.

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A camper tries his hand at grooming Athena.

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A camper meets Rose, a Duroc pig.

In the afternoons, the campers headed inside for presentations and interactive activities to learn about indoor pets like rabbits, cats and dogs. They practiced handling rabbits with Max and Rudy, practiced pet safety and reading dog body language, and made cat toys and beds!

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Campers meet Jade the cat.

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Campers work on decorating homemade beds for cats.

In addition to learning about all these animals, the campers were given a chance to brag about their own pets a little bit, too. Each camper brought in a photo of their pet and, through games of “Two Truths and a Lie,” got to tell their fellow campers all about their best friends!

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A camper shows off a photo of her pet during a game of “Two Truths and a Lie.”

All in all, it was a great week — our campers learned a lot and had a lot of fun, too!

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Our 2015 Spring Break Rescue Campers!

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Earlier this month, we welcomed a group of kids ages 6 and up to ARL main for a special paint-your-pet event!

The “Petcasso” workshop was led by artist/illustrator Kathryn Finney, who has been a longtime friend of the ARL (she painted the portraits in our front lobby!). She is also a published children’s author — check out her book, Little Louie, here! Each participant brought in a picture of their pet or favorite animal, and Kathryn guided them through the steps to produce a masterpiece.

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Artist Kathryn Finney leads the Petcasso workshop.

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Kathryn helps a painter with his portrait of three guinea pigs.

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Participants get started on their pet portraits.

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A painter puts the finishing touches on her portrait.

By the end of the day, each of our artistes-in-training had a beautiful work of art to bring home and share with their best friend.

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The painters show off their completed masterpieces!

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This Easter, Think Twice Before Novelty Gifting

bunny chick Duck

Easter is just around the corner, which means that many families are preparing to gift their loved ones with beautifully dyed eggs, a challenging Easter egg hunt, or lots and lots of candy. However, some parents may decide that they want to give their children something more: a live rabbit, chick or duckling. These animals are all adorable and make great companions, but only for those who are ready for the commitment of owning a pet.

According to the ASPCA, each year thousands of animals originally given as Easter gifts are returned to shelters or — even worse — abandoned in the wild where they are unable to fend for themselves and are helpless against cars, predators, illness and injury.

There are many reasons that people who give animals as Easter gifts later find themselves unable to take care of their new pet. Many owners may not realize these critters actually have fairly long lifespans (ducks can live as long as 20 years!), and are not prepared for such a long commitment. Similarly, many people may not know much about animal care and don’t realize that they have very specific housing, dietary and veterinary needs, all of which can bring on extra costs that a family may not be financially prepared for. Rabbits, chickens and ducks are not the “starter pets” many parents assume them to be. They require the same level of commitment that a cat or a dog would, and their care should be taken just as seriously. They also have very specific needs and preferences that can be difficult for children to manage. For example, they need to be handled very gently, which can be hard for young kids to understand. 

To give the gift of a pet without taking on the responsibility of a living animal, try giving your loved ones a stuffed animal or chocolate rabbit instead! 

And if — after a serious discussion about whether your family is prepared for the responsibility and commitment of pet ownership — you decide you are ready for a pet, remember that it’s always better to adopt from a shelter. The ARL has several bunnies who would love to be a part of your family!

A rabbit, chicken or duck is a forever pet, not a gift you can return when the novelty wears off. This year, please do the right thing and make sure your family is prepared for the responsibility of pet ownership before bringing an animal into your home.

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Small Pet Guide: Which Is Right For You?


For animal lovers who don’t have the time, space or energy for a large pet, smaller animals like hamsters, gerbils, mice, rats or rabbits can make excellent companions. There are a lot of choices available when it comes to choosing a small pet — read on to find out which one is right for you.

General Information


Most of the pets listed below need similar types of housing and supplies: a cage or something similar, bedding/nesting material, a water bottle and food dish, an exercise wheel, toys, and treats. This list varies by the animal, so make sure you have everything your new pet will need before you bring them home.


Cage-cleaning needs vary from pet to pet. No critter wants to live in it’s own waste, owners can expect to spot-clean their small animal’s cage as needed. Cages should be deep cleaned and bedding should be replaced once a week to keep your friend feeling happy and healthy.


With any pet, it’s important to educate kids on pet care needs and teach them how to handle the animal respectfully. Small animals shouldn’t be handled without adult supervision, these critters are small and need to be handled very gently — they are also frightened by loud noises or sudden movements. Anything with teeth can bite if it’s feeling threatened or startled.


These animals are fairly low-cost, as far as pets go. They will require some new supplies at first (a cage, toys, etc.), and things like continuous food, treats and bedding for the rest of their lives. Owners can expect to spend a couple hundred dollars a year on a small pet (compared with $1500 for a medium-sized dog).



Hamsters can vary in size depending on the breed, but most weigh around half a pound. They have an average lifespan of 2.5-3 years. Hamsters are nocturnal, which means they may not be the best pet for owners who are light sleepers or are looking for a companion to play with during the day. Hamsters are independent, so they are able to entertain themselves for long periods of time, provided they have enough toys, bedding, etc. to keep them busy in their cage. However, they still need at least some daily interaction to keep them happy. Depending on the breed, some hamsters can share a cage with others. While Syrian hamsters are solitary and absolutely need to live one per cage, Dwarf hamsters are a bit more social and can share their living quarters with another hamster if they are introduced at a young age.


Gerbils are also fairly small, and have an average lifespan of 3-4 years. Like hamsters, they are independent but still require some daily interaction. Rather than sleeping for long periods of time, gerbils have alternating periods of rest and activity all throughout the day and night (giving you more opportunities to play with them!). Gerbils are cleaner than hamsters — their efficient use of water means they make less of a mess in their cage, but owners should still be prepared to spot clean every few days and change the bedding weekly.


Mice are quick, active and love to explore their surroundings — perfect for owners who love to watch their pet racing through tunnels or homemade obstacle courses, but not quite suited to those who are looking for just a cuddle buddy. They typically live 1.5-3 years. Like hamsters and gerbils, they are fine being left alone for longer periods of time.


Rats have an average lifespan of 2.5-3 years. They are nocturnal, and very active — they need to spend some time out of their cage every day (preferably an hour or more). Rats are very social, and most are happier sharing their cage with a friend. They are also very smart, and can even learn tricks or commands if their owner takes the time to teach them.

Guinea Pig

Guinea pigs are a bit longer-lived, with an average lifespan of 5-7 years. They are very friendly and don’t mind being held, as long as they are held securely and are not flipped over on their backs. Like rats, they are very social and love to have a friend nearby. They are active and need to spend some time out of their cage every day. Guinea pigs’ pretty coats mean they require a bit more grooming than other small pets, with shorthair breeds needing to be brushed once a week and longhair breeds requiring a daily brushing.


Rabbits have a lifespan closer to that of a cat or dog (8-12 years). They need lots of room to move around, and do best when kept in a larger cage or a rabbit-proofed room. Rabbits are crepuscular, which means that sleep during the day and night, but are most active at dawn and dusk. They need regular interaction, and are happiest when they can come out of their cages at least once a day. They need to have fresh vegetables in their diet, so owners should expect to hit the produce section frequently.

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