Five years ago, The Santa Paws Project was conceived by Desert Ridge residents Marcie and Rob Reichstein. The Reichsteins, long time pet lovers who help raise funds for accredited 501(c)(3) rescues, realized there was no organized program to collect items for shelter pets during the holiday season.

Marcie explained that shelter pets do feel the excitement in the shelters around the holiday season. They feed off the vibe by visitors and volunteers. But for the dogs and cats housed in a shelter, it ends with just another night on a cold hard floor. But what if, on one night, they received a toy to cherish and call their own? It’s a simple inexpensive gesture for pets that find themselves hoping for a family of their own.

Just after Thanksgiving of 2014, the Reichsteins contacted Melissa Gable, then with Maricopa County Animal Care and Control, to see if MCCACC would be interested in accepting toy donations. Melissa’s response was a decisive, “that would be incredible!” And so, The Santa Paws Project was launched.

Toy Donations

In that first year, SPP collected about 400 toys. Everything was turned over to Melissa at MCCACC. The toys are handed out to the pets in residence as part of the MCCACC holiday party celebration. Over the next three years, The Desert Ridge Community Association, Aviano, Fireside, Toscana, The Pet Club, Pet$ense, and Phoenix Dog magazine came to their rescue (pun intended), offering collection locations, promotions, and emotional support. Last year collections exceeded 3,500 new dog and cat toys, all turned over to Maricopa County Animal Care and Control.

“What we have come to learn from the MCCACC staff is that the toys are extremely important to the shelter pets on several levels,” said Marcie. They provide comfort for anxious pets on intake, help in the emotional evaluation process, provide security for lonely pets, as well as provide a mental stimulus for pets that would otherwise suffer the ill effects of little to no mental stimulation. Realizing just how much an inexpensive toy means to these pets awaiting adoptions gives us the impetus to collect more each year. We thank everyone in Desert Ridge who donates a new pet toy at this time. We make sure MCCACC knows how much Desert Ridge residents care.

Collection Schedule

This year, the collection season will be November 18th through December 16th. Collection boxes will be in place at Aviano, Toscana, and Fireside community centers and the Desert Ridge Community Association office. For more information, please visit The Santa Paws Project website, the FB page – The Santa Paws Project.org, or contact Marcie or Rob @ 602-551-6314. For more information about Maricopa Country Animal Care and Control, contact Jose Santiago, Public Information Officer for MCCACC at JoseSantiago@mail.maricopa.gov.

Contributed by Robert Reichstein
Communications Chairman


The Santa Paws Project