When local animal shelter employee Kimberly LaRussa approached pizzeria owner Mary Alloy with a fun idea to help get shelter dogs adopted, the animal lover signed on right away — and in mere hours, they’d created a delicious new way to help scores of furry friends find their forever families!
So … would you be interested?” Kimberly LaRussa asked Mary Alloy, staring hopefully at her friend one March afternoon.
For months, Mary, who owned the pizza shop Just Pizza in their Amherst, New York, town, had been volunteering at the Niagara SPCA animal shelter, where Kimberly worked as an event coordinator. And in the spirit of their mutual love of animals, Kimberly had come up with an idea to help Mary give back to the animals she so loved in a spectacular way.
“Would I be interested in attaching flyers with pictures of your adoptable dogs on our pizza boxes?” Mary smiled. “Absolutely! That’s a no-brainer!”“Great!” Kimberly smiled back. “I have the flyers in my car — I’ll go grab them!”
Heading outside, Kimberly’s heart soared imagining all the sweet pups who would finally find their forever homes because of this new partnership. But as she and Mary taped flyers with pictures of the dogs, the shelter’s contact information and a note reading, “I live at Niagara SPCA. I’d like to live with you,” to the pizza boxes, neither could have imagined just how many lives they would change in mere weeks.
A pup-tastic partnershipAs the first pizza was boxed that evening, Kimberly took to the Niagara SPCA Facebook page, announcing their collaboration with Just Pizza alongside a flyer featuring a 5-year-old mastiff named Hooch.
Beneath his smiling jowls, Kimberly photoshopped in a slice of pizza with the announcement, We are so excited to have teamed up with our friends at Just Pizza to help get our shelter dogs adopted! Be on the lookout for a sweet face on your pizza boxes this weekend!
Instantly, responses began pouring in.
What a great idea! one user commented. Said another, Hooch is so adorable —I would love to adopt him!
It’s working! Kimberly thought, when suddenly, her phone rang … with a family interested in Hooch at the other end.
“Come in for a meet-and-greet!” Kimberly said, arranging a time for the family to come see the happy pup … and, ultimately, adopt him into his forever home. And in mere hours, Kimberly was not only fielding calls from people interested in adopting dogs like sweet Cinnamon, beautiful Solstice and loving Harper, but also a call from the local news.“They’re at the pizzeria now!” Mary told Kimberly on the phone as a crew came to cover the story. “And the pizzeria is busier than ever!”
“This is amazing!” Kimberly enthused, when suddenly, it dawned on her: Mary was a private person … how must all of this sudden publicity be affecting her?“I love the dogs!” Mary answered. “I’m even going to offer a $50 gift card to people who adopt the ‘pizza flyer’ pups. Whatever it takes to get them home, I’ll do it!”
True to her word, Mary has continued to feature flyers of the precious shelter pups on her pizza boxes every day—even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. And due to her efforts, Just Pizza’s work has gone viral, garnering interest from potential adopters from Texas to Argentina, as well as other businesses looking to do the same thing for their local shelters.That popularity has paid off — to date, 25 shelter dogs and cats have been adopted as a result of Mary’s efforts. And in the first 12 days, she sold more than 1,500 pizzas, expanding her gift card offering from any-one who adopts “pizza flyer” dogs to anyone who adopts an animal from the SPCA.
For Mary, it’s a dream come true. “I wish every business could do this to get these dogs a home!” she says. “It’s a small gesture, and it feels great to see these animals and families happy and finally together!”
Kimberly agrees. “Knowing that these sweet animals are going home warms my heart,” she says. “And so much of that is because of Mary! Her pizza box advertising is an essential part of getting them adopted, and we are so grateful to her for giving them a chance at a happy life!”
3 out-of-the-box ways you can help shelter pets — from home!
- Volunteer skills! Many shelters rely on their digital presence to get animals adopted, so if you have tech skills, check if your local shelter needs updates to their website or social media. Not tech-savvy? Offer your writing skills to contribute to newsletters, grants and adoption profiles.
- Get crafty! Animal shelters are always in need of volunteers to donate knitted blankets to give animals a warm, comfortable place to rest. Don’t knit? Visit YouTube and search “DIY no-sew fleece blanket tutorial” to watch a video with easy-to-follow instructions for a cozy, quick blanket!
- Foster a ‘quarantine buddy’! With many working from home and staying inside, fostering a shelter pet is easier than ever! Sign up to enjoy walks, playtime breaks and snuggles, and the shelter will pay for food, vet bills and other supplies for your furry friend’s stay.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.