More than a thousand local shelter pets found their forever homes Saturday thanks to Clear the Shelters, as NBC and Telemundo stations teamed up with shelters across the country to find loving homes for pets in need.
Hundreds of shelters — including dozens of locations in D.C., Maryland and Virginia — waived or reduced adoption fees Saturday. The goal was to #ClearTheShelters by finding forever homes for as many animals as possible.
At least 1,113 D.C.-area pets had been adopted by 8 p.m.
By the end of the day, Ginger and Cici, the two longest canine residents of the Animal Welfare League of Arlington (AWLA), had finally gone to their forever homes -- and so had every other dog at that shelter.
"We are so excited to say we have no more dogs left for adoption today! BUT, we do have LOTS of adult cats still looking for homes, so please spread the word!" the shelter said on Twitter.
In addition to their 26 dogs, the Arlington shelter also adopted out 17 cats, four guinea pigs, two rabbits and a gerbil. Shelter workers posted a video on Twitter, posing in the empty kennels.
At one of D.C.'s Humane Rescue Alliance (HRA) locations, one of the first adoptions of the day wasn't a dog or a cat, but a guinea pig.
"His name now is Oreo," said his new human, a woman from Riverdale, Maryland.
She has two guinea pig siblings waiting for him at home.
"We connected right away," she said.
The HRA opened at 10 a.m. Saturday, but the first person in line showed up at 3:30 a.m. Both AWLA and Baltimore's Maryland SPCA shared videos on Twitter of lines of eager potential adopters.
One adopter at HRA, Jessica Gallogly, was recovering from a liver transplant when she heard about the event. She headed down to the shelter location on Oglethorpe Street with her kids and fell in love with a 3-year-old dog named Eva.
"Both of my dogs that I had to give up were [my kids'] birthday present a couple years ago, but because I got so sick, we couldn't take care of them," Gallogly said. "They were both adopted, thank God. So, I believe in it."
A woman in her late 60s went to the Cecil County Animal Shelter in Maryland hoping to find a new companion after her 18-year-old dog died, Director Abigail Bingham said. The woman adopted a mixed-breed senior dog that had been abandoned in a neighborhood.
"It was a great fit for both of them," Bingham said.
Clear the Shelters also marked a huge first for one local rescue organization. On Saturday, volunteers opened the doors to the Chesapeake Feline Association for the first time ever.
The no-kill shelter in North East, Maryland, finds home for only adult cats and has been operational since 2009, but in the past only allowed potential families to meet cats by appointment. People interested in adopting had to fill out an application for the cat before they even met it, and that was off-putting to some, said Karen Burkhardt, adoption manager.
"We weren't really able to get anybody into the shelter,"she said.
Shelter organizers had to go in front of Cecil County lawmakers to get special permission to have open hours at their current facility, which is in a residential area of town. They finally got that permission this August.
It's been a huge milestone for Chesapeake and its volunteers.
"I tell you I'm elated," Burkhardt said. "I have tears in my eyes."
Kittens can find homes easily, but adult cats are harder to get adopted, she said.
Three cats were adopted Saturday from the Chesapeake Feline Association, all adults, one of whom was a black cat, which some would-be adopters can be wary of due to superstitions.
"It's a big deal for me," she said.
All participating D.C.-area shelters have now closed for the day.
Here are the shelters that participated:
- Animal Welfare League of Alexandria
- Animal Welfare League of Arlington
- Animal Welfare Society of Howard County, Inc.
- Anne Arundel County Animal Control
- Baltimore County Animal Services
- Baltimore Humane Society
- BARCS Animal Shelter
- Baywater Animal Rescue
- Billy the Kidden Rescue
- Chesapeake Feline Association
- Cecil County Aninal Shelter
- City of Manassas Animal Shelter
- Equine Rescue League
- Fairfax County Animal Shelter
- Fancy Cats Rescue Team
- Frederick County Esther Boyd Animal Shelter
- Fredericksburg SPCA
- Forgotten Felines of Culpeper
- Homeward Trails Animal Rescue
- Humane Rescue Alliance (New York Avenue)
- Humane Rescue Alliance (Oglethorpe Street)
- Humane Society of Charles County
- Humane Society of Harford County
- Humane Society of Loudoun County
- Humane Society of Warren County
- Humane Society of Washington (Md.) County
- Loudoun County Animal Services
- Maryland SPCA
- Paws for Seniors
- Prince George's County Animal Management Division
- Prince William County Animal Shelter
- Prince William Humane Society
- SPCA of Anne Arundel County
- Spotsylvania Animal Shelter
- Stafford County Animal Shelters
- Tri-County Animal Shelter
- Westmoreland County Animal Shelter
More than 61,000 pets were adopted during last year's event, including more than 1,300 in the D.C. area. One of those was a dog named Odysseus, then 10 years old. The odds weren't necessarily in his favor: He was a senior dog and also a large one, at 73 pounds. But the German shepherd went home with his new humans that day and found his happily ever after.
"He is a fully integrated member of the family," one of his new pet parents, Tammy Garrett, told NBC Washington. "He loves affection and loves to snuggle at our feet. If he sees my husband and I hug, he immediately wiggles in between us so he can get some hugs too!"
Millions more pets remain homeless. Every year, 6.5 million animals end up in shelters nationwide — and only 3.2 million are adopted, according to the ASPCA.
But the number of dogs and cats going into shelters each year has declined in recent years.
The number being euthanized has also declined, and the ASPCA attributes the decline in part to an increase in the percentage of animals being adopted and an increase in the number of strays being returned to their humans.
Still thinking about adopting? Check out these resources: