Animal Rescue League places animals with their perfect match

With this week’s Bedford Journal jam-packed with pictures of pets, those of you without furry family members may be feeling the urge to adopt. Those of you who already own a pet or two may be wondering if you can make room for one more.

You just might find that new addition to the family at the Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire, which has locations at 545 Route 101 in Bedford and in Conway.

Paula Mattis, the league’s CEO and president, took some time away from all those adorable animals seeking homes to tell us what people should know before adopting, how many animals the league’s Bedford location takes in each year and how an animal personality test might help you find your perfect match.

Here’s part of the conversation:

Q: What is the mission of the Animal Rescue League?

A: We have been in existence as a nonprofit organization since 1904. Our mission is to protect, rescue and adopt animals.

Q: How long have you been president and CEO of the Animal Rescue League? What drew you to this position?

A: I have been at the Animal Rescue League since March 5 of this year and am enjoying my work here. I am a professionally trained social worker who worked in the field of behavioral health, first as a clinician and then as an administrator in both community agencies and hospitals. My love of and respect for animals drew my attention to this position. After some research on the animal welfare industry, I realized that there are many parallels between animal and human welfare. After being on the job for one week, I discovered the parallels between operating a shelter and operating a hospital. I think I have found a natural fit.

Q: How many animals does the league’s Bedford location take in each year? How many adoptions does it facilitate each year?

A: The Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire in Bedford takes in about 2,000 animals a year. Last year, approximately 1,700 of those were adopted.

Q: What should people know before adopting a pet?

A: Adding a pet to your household is an enriching experience. However, not every home is a good match for every pet. It is important for people considering bringing a pet into the family to do an honest review of what kind of pet will be best for them. For example, a very busy family may do better with a cat or a bunny. These are animals who do not need to go out at regular intervals as a dog does. A very active adopter may want to consider a dog who likes to be on the move, because that means more time on walks or hikes, resulting in a happier partnership. Finally, it is very important that the entire household be involved in meeting a potential addition to the family. The ARL staff supports a thoughtful decision-making process and applaud those who decide to adopt, or not adopt, based on such a process. Please remember, ARL staff members are there to help potential adopters with this very important decision.

Q: According to the website, the Animal Rescue League uses the Canine-ality and Feline-ality tests to help people find their pet match. Could you tell me more about these tests and how successful they’ve been for the league?

A: The Canine-ality and Feline-ality surveys are assessment tools to help in the adoption process. They are part of the Meet Your Match program developed by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and IAMS. These assessments are based on behavioral research that categorizes dogs and cats based on their personality. The survey answers provided by potential adopters are tallied and placed in a color-coded category that helps them locate animals in our shelter that would be a good match for them. Instead of choosing a pet that is “cute” or “has personality,” adopters can explore available animals that have been color-coded based on Canine-ality and Feline-ality assessments. It is important to note that potential adopters cannot give a “right” or “wrong” answer. This is part of our learning-based adoption approach to help ensure a match that works for the animals and the humans.

Q: What are the most common reasons people give up their pets for adoption?

A: The main reason people surrender their pets is economic. Due to the economic downturn, we are finding many people are unable to afford their pets. Moving is the second most common reason given. This, of course, may be related to the economy, but is also due to other changes families experience, such as work transfers or divorce. Also, some animals are surrendered due to behavioral issues. Whatever the reason for surrender, we are here to support owners through this very difficult process.

Q: What kinds of animals does the Animal Rescue League have available for adoption?

A: Currently, we have dogs, cats, rabbits, mice and rats. We have a nice selection of bunnies who make great pets. In fact, rabbits are No. 2 on the list when you look at what animals are coming into shelters.

Q: What can Bedford residents do to help the Animal Rescue League?

A: Please note that we do not receive federal, state or United Way funding. We are solely dependent on donations and proceeds from fundraising events. Financial donations are necessary and so appreciated. In-kind donations are also wonderful. Our website ( has our wish list – not yet added is that we desperately need a copier. Also, we love our volunteers. Please consider getting involved. We could not serve our community without our volunteers. Finally, check our website and Facebook page to learn about events we are sponsoring. That is a terrific way to learn about us and be involved.