Animal lovers from across the Lone Star State adopted 2,256 cats, kittens, dogs and puppies—and even a few pocket pets—on Saturday, August 16, during “Empty the Shelter Day,” the largest ever pet adoption effort in North Texas, sponsored in part by the ASPCA.
Shelters large and small, municipal and non-profit—33 total—literally emptied their shelters during the one-day, fee-waived adoption event.
“It was a sight to see and the best day of my 18-year career,” said Corey Price, animal services manager for the City of Irving Animal Services, an open-admission shelter. “Veterans of the animal welfare community were left speechless, and shelter workers and volunteers shed tears as they walked past empty kennels and cages.”
It was Price who set the wheels in motion in June for the multiple-shelter collaboration when she and her staff began thinking beyond the smaller scale “Empty the Shelter” event they had hosted in previous years. They pitched the idea to broadcaster NBC5/Telemundo39, which immediately got on board, and began spreading the word.
Shelters signed on like wildfire. NBC5/Telemundo39 provided PSAs and promotional coverage; the ASPCA provided funds for other local advertising and grassroots efforts.
Lines of soon-to-be-adopters began at 7 a.m. at the Humane Society of North Texas in Ft. Worth.
Ann Barnes, executive director of the Humane Society of North Texas, the oldest animal welfare agency in the region, placed more animals—339—than any other single agency, said the event was “all hands on deck” for her team and, despite the Texas heat and long lines, “the community support was overwhelming.”
At Dallas Animal Services, customers waited as long as three hours to adopt but were “patient and committed,” says Rebecca Poling, a board member of the Dallas Companion Animal Project, which supplied volunteers to DAS for the event. “It was not so much about adopting a pet for free as it was about saving lives. The event really gave people the chance to be a part of something.”
“People got the message,” adds Pam Burney, vice president of community initiatives for the ASPCA and who visited several participating shelters during the event. “What’s great is all the shelters did well—even small ones.”
That’s certainly true of North Richland Hills Animal Adoption & Rescue Center, which placed 39 pets during their event. “In 2013, for the entire month of August, we placed less than that—just 34,” says Chun Mezger, humane division supervisor for the City of North Richland Hills. “Our community really supported us.”
Staff at North Richland Hills Animal Adoption & Rescue Center rallied in memory of their co-worker Mary Beth Chastain who died of cancer four days earlier. The shelter placed 39 pets during the event—more adoptions than in the entire month of August 2013.
For Chun’s staff, the event was also tinged with sadness. “We just lost one of our own—Mary Beth Chastain, a humane officer—to cancer on Wednesday,” Mezger says. “But our team did an amazing job pulling together to honor Mary Beth by ‘knocking it out of the park’ on Saturday.”
In 2013, aggregate adoptions for the same 33 participating shelters, on the same August day, was just 266, according to Price. The final count for Empty the Shelter Day increased that number nearly ten-fold.
“For the first time ever, our two shelters were nearly empty,” says James Bias, president and CEO of the SPCA of Texas, where just three dogs remained at the organization’s Jan Rees-Jones Animal Care Center in Dallas and its Russell H. Perry Animal Care Center in McKinney stood empty. “In one day, 163 animals found their forever homes—half as many as find homes in any given week.”
By 4 PM, HSNT had run out of dogs (Courtesy HSNT)
“We’ve never seen room after room of empty kennels,” adds Barnes, whose organization was out of its 208 dogs by 4 p.m. and by day’s end had also placed 126 cats, two rabbits and three other small mammals. “It was a real morale booster.”
By 2:30 p.m., Dallas Animal Services was out of adoptable pets and began directing clients to its Lost and Found area where they could pre-adopt animals on stray hold if they went unclaimed. “I’d never seen it empty like this since the day we opened,” says Poling. “Pod after pod, row after row. It was almost eerie. But it was a great thing.”
Hazel Russell of Watauga, Texas adopted Chloe, a Chihuahua, at the N. Richland Hills event. (Courtesy NRHAA&RC)
Despite the myth that fee-waived adoptions don’t yield good homes for cats and dogs, Barnes says her team’s experience during “Empty the Shelter” de-bunked that theory. “Our adoption applications were perfect—just what we wanted for each animal,” she says. Adds the ASPCA’s Burney: “It’s only the fee that was waived, not the criteria. In fact, some adopters visited shelters on Friday and paid fees so they could be sure to get first pick.”
In the end, says Price, the best part was not only the support from the community, but how “participating shelters embraced and ran with the concept.”
“I’m really impressed with the North Texas animal welfare community,” she says. “This is just the beginning.”
Feather is a very independent cat. She likes attention, but would prefer to decide when to receive it. This pretty lady also has a playful side! She would love nothing more than regular play sessions with her new family and favorite toys.
This special cat would do best as the only pet in a home with experienced adopters and teens 14-and-up. She would be thrilled to join a family who is willing to maintain a regular grooming routine to keep her coat shiny and free of mats. Adopt Feather today!
Feather is available for adoption at the ASPCA Adoption Center. If you are interested in adopting, please call our Adoptions department in New York City at (212) 876-7700 ext. 4120. To learn more about Feather, please visit her profile page.
Guest blog by ASPCA President & CEO Matt Bershadker
With somewhere between 5 and 7 million homeless animals entering U.S. animal shelters, it’s unconscionable to suggest, as one writer did in the Washington Post, that adopting a pet from an animal shelter is a bad idea. (See a comprehensive refutation from Washington Humane Society’s Lisa Lafontaine.)
But as ridiculous as anti-shelter arguments are, they reveal destructive myths about shelter animals that need to be called out every time they arise. I’m sharing some of the most persistent ones below, and have enlisted help from ASPCA shelter science experts to help dispel them.
Myth: The major reasons dogs end up in shelters is because they were seized in criminal cases, or were too aggressive to own safely.
More than half of all dogs and cats in shelters were received as strays, but that doesn’t mean by any stretch they’re automatically aggressive, come from abusive environments, or have medical challenges. What’s much more important than an animal’s history is its current behavior and medical status. This information is typically well-known and shared by shelter staff who’ve been caring for the animal.
Myth: Shelter animals are not as clean as pet store animals.
Not only is this untrue, but the conditions of many breeding facilities or puppy mills (which supply pet stores that sell dogs) are nothing short of horrific. Puppy mill operators may fail to remove sick dogs from their breeding pools. As a result, puppies from puppy mills sometimes come with congenital and hereditary conditions including epilepsy, heart disease, kidney disease, and respiratory disorders.
Puppies born in puppy mills are usually removed from their mothers at just six weeks of age, denying them critical socialization, and housed in overcrowded and unsanitary wire-floored cages, without adequate veterinary care, food or water. Make no mistake: Anything purchased at a pet store that sells animals—even supplies—is keeping this vicious industry in business.
Myth: Older cats and dogs will not bond with new owners.
Again, simply untrue. Age is not a determining factor in an animal’s affection toward humans or its ability to bond with them. Just ask anyone who’s adopted an older pet, visit a shelter and ask to see their older animals, or simply look into the face of an older dog or cat. Organizations like Susie’s Senior Dogs are trying hard to connect more senior animals with loving homes. Believe me, they’re ready for you.
Myth: A shelter animal should never be given as a gift.
To the uninformed, this may makes sense, but data shows otherwise. A scientific study we published last October found that 96 percent of people who received pets as gifts reported it either increased or had no negative impact on their attachment to that pet. Also, 86 percent of the pets in the study are still in their homes, a percentage roughly equivalent to that in standard adoption.
The survey also showed no difference in attachment based on whether the gift was a surprise or known in advance. This is supported by previous studies conducted in the 1990s and 2000, which found that pets acquired as gifts are actually less likely to be relinquished than pets acquired directly by an individual owner.
This misconception is particularly harmful because it not only prevents shelter animals from going into loving homes, but may drive potential adopters toward pet stores that almost always get their inventory from puppy mills.
Myth: Adopting big or very strong dogs is a bad idea if you have little children.
There’s no evidence that big dogs are more likely than small dogs to harm children. Chances are, you already know some very sweet big dogs, and if you don’t, the ASPCA or your local shelter would be happy to introduce you to one.
There’s been some recent debate about the inherent natures of pit bulls in particular, but again, there’s no evidence to show that pit bulls are more likely to cause harm to humans than any other breed. A dog's—any dog’s—behavior is a function of many factors, including breeding, socialization, training, environment and treatment by owners.
Myth: Getting animals from breeders is safer because the breeders know the animal’s bloodline and family history.
First know that, as a result of their breeding, purebred dogs very often have genetic disorders and medical issue predispositions, certainly no less often than shelter dogs. Also, while bloodlines and histories are useful tools to assess an animal’s value, they are limited in terms of predicting behavior. On the other hand, shelters are motivated to save lives and make strong matches. Some use science and sophisticated tools to appropriately pair up animals and owners, and are happy to share everything they know about each animal.
Good breeders are focused not on profit, but on the health and welfare of the individual animals they handle, and we applaud that. But the plain truth is you’re helping to save and protect more lives if you make adoption your first option, so please match your open home and open heart with an open mind.
At the ASPCA, we LOVE black kitties—but the sad truth is that not everyone feels the same way. Due to outdated (and incorrect) myths and superstitions, black cats have a really hard time getting adopted. That’s why we were so glad to learn that this Sunday, August 17, is Black Cat Appreciation Day!
To celebrate this holiday, we put together just a few of the many reasons we appreciate these raven-coated kitties:
Black cats go with everything—and they’ll never go out of style!
You can tell your kids you adopted a miniature panther.
Their fur won’t show on your little black dress.
In most cultures, black cats are a sign of good luck.
Black cats are just as loving, sweet and wonderful as any other cat!
We hope you will join us in celebrating Black Cat Appreciation Day by heading to your local shelter and bringing home a black cat this weekend. If you’re in the New York City area, come meet some the black cats available at the ASPCA Adoption Center right now:
Salem Salem can be a bit shy with new people, but once he gets to know you, he’ll shower you with purrs, head-butts, and plenty of lap time. If properly introduced, this handsome 2-year-old can live in a home with another cat.
Pinky This sweet, soulful 4-year-old cat is ready for his forever home. He’s a bit nervous around other cats, so Pinky would do best in a home where he gets to be the only pet. He also has a soft spot for yummy treats!
Princess Princess is a sensitive kitty and can be timid around new people. Once she relaxes, though, she is very sweet and enjoys petting. She will do best in a home with an experienced cat adopter and respectful kids ages 14 and up.
JamesandGwendolyn James (4) and Gwendolyn (6) are another bonded pair. These sweeties like attention, but they also appreciate their solitude from time to time. Both are FIV positive and would do best in a stable home with an experienced adopter.
BernardandMinerva Bernard and Minerva are BFFs (Best Feline Friends), so they are looking for a home together. These four-month-old kitties would do best in a quiet home with respectful kids ages 12 and up.
Gary is a super friendly and affectionate pup. But they don’t call this curious goofball a busy body for nothing—he’s happiest when he’s on the move! He’d make the perfect companion to your afternoon stroll or run through the park.
Gary likes to play with other dogs and with proper introductions, he could make a few canine buddies. This lively guy would be happy to go home with an experienced adopter who will give him plenty of playtime and exercise. Gary would do best in a household with teens-and-up. Adopt Gary today!
Gary is available for adoption at the ASPCA Adoption Center. If you are interested in adopting, please call our Adoptions department in New York City at (212) 876-7700 ext. 4120. To learn more about Gary, please visit his profile page.