2,000+ Animals Adopted as North Texas Empties Its Shelters

Thursday, August 21, 2014 - 11:45am
People packed the lobby of the SPCA of Texas in Dallas

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
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
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.”

handwritten sign: "SORRY NO DOGS LEFT :)"
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 and Chloe
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.”

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Lynda Hartmann

I agree and that was the very first thing I thought of too. There are just too many sick, unsavory characters out there to trust them all. I'm sure that some of them got really good homes. But what about the ones who didn't??? I just shudder to think of it after reading all of the ways some people will mistreat animals, and I follow one site that proves that very thing. The people on this site treat new cases every day, and you wouldn't believe the way some of them are tortured! I hope and pray all of them got great homes, but I highly doubt it. You have to really feel for the ones who didn't!


I'm with you guys. I used to live in Dallas and walked the DAS Buckner Blvd. shelter(which tells you how long ago I lived in Dallas) several times a month to put out the list of dogs in the stray pens for the DFW rescue community. At any given time, there were 140 dogs in the stray pens. I know how many dogs and cats were run through DAS and I understand the desire to find homes for all of them. However, holding a fire sale on sentient companion animals is not the way, in my opinion, to accomplish this goal.

I run an all volunteer non profit and though we are much smaller and have the luxury of doing home visits and vet references, I'm still very concerned about the animals who went to what I would call questionable animals guardians. I understand that many people who took an animal home are probably very good guardians and have only the animal's welfare in mind. It's the few people who will get an animal for free and then tie the dog in the backyard or have the cat live outdoors or worse that concerns me.

What I don't understand is why people lined up for hours to adopt without a fee. Adoption fees at the municipal shelters are not high; people can adopt all year long. I just hope that everyone who walked away with a dog or cat keeps that animal safe and loved for the rest of his or her life. It's all we can hope for.

What all animal services departments need to do is implement Nathan Winograd's programs then having a free adoption day wouldn't be necessary. They could empty the shelters all year long.


free event about animals is not really good!! why wouldn't people spend some money and give to the shelter for the nutering and other expenses's too easy to go get free pets!! you don't get free things in life and pets are not things !!! so lets see in the years to come how many will find the same pets back on the streets or mistreated ..or worst....sorry I a am against the free idea


Only 7% came back. That is less than some shelters every day return rate.


My friend adopted her new furbaby at this event. She arrived shortly before closing and there were no puppies left. That was okay because she wanted an older dog. When she got there, an attendant came in to talk about this one dog that had suddenly become very excited, after having laid in his kennel and ignored all day. As they walked back to the area, he started barking and dancing. My friend declared that it was meant to be, as she hadn't even intended to go that day. It was like Maxwell knew he was just waiting for her and when she got there he was fussing "What took you so long?" He's a doll baby and very happy to have his new forever home.

Giancarla Fratini

God is always there for those who have faith and wait.

Giancarla Fratini

Please keep track on all the souls that have been given away!


Love this story!!!! I love the whole idea that aspca AND ACC were involved ... and adopted out basically all the animals.Hopefully they did it responsibly! NYC needs to learn a lesson or 2 from them ... and FOLLOW THEIR LEAD!!!! Actually ... the whole country needs to get on board!!! I understand priorities ... but it's not right (and irresponsible) to allow animal issues to get swept under the carpet.
-- Dr. Albert Schweitzer: “Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace.”

-- Mohandas Gandhi: "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

–Albert Einstein: The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.

animal welfare

So they just gave away the animals to anyone. Like they do in the newspaper. I wonder how many of these animals got great homes.


Please tell me that shelters did not release unaltered animals. And then we wonder why there's still an animal overpopulation. Holy crap.