Hundreds of animals in the D.C. area — and thousands nationwide — found their forever homes Saturday during the fifth annual Clear the Shelters event.
The shelters, which teamed up with NBC and Telemundo stations to find loving homes for pets in need, waived or reduced fees throughout the day. More than 815 animals were adopted in the D.C. area Saturday, while another 255 went to new homes in the Baltimore area, and nearly 100 found homes in the Richmond area.
Prospective adopters got an early start Saturday. People lined up outside D.C.'s Humane Rescue Alliance (HRA) well in advance of opening Saturday morning — and a couple of people even slept outside the Prince William Animal Shelter overnight.
The animals were glad to meet them. A pit bull mix named Sally had been at the HRA for four months — but "today she is going HOME!" the shelter posted on social media, sharing images of the very happy dog.
Sally was adopted by two sisters from Alexandria who had been looking for a new dog after losing their pit bull, Angel, to cancer.
"I think that [Angel] didn't want me to be sad. And she just wanted me to like help another dog," one of the sisters, Deirdre Wright, said through tears.
D.C. resident Ariana Gevov adopted 3-year-old mixed breed Kingston, whom she was considering renaming Chase.
Her first thought when she met him: "That he was just so lovable. I mean, he kinda just like fell into you when we were in the greeting area. So, I just knew he was gonna be someone I could bring around to other people, and he would be good with other dogs and things like that," she said.
Gevov grew up with two small dogs, but this will be her first larger dog. She said she was so excited and just knew that she wanted to adopt.
"He was a stray, and now we're gonna go home and have a home," she said.
Another D.C. resident was ecstatic as she talked about her new black cat, a 1-year-old named Queen. "She's black. And she's cute. And she's mine!" she said, smiling ear-to-ear.
In Virginia, adoptions were brisk at the Prince William County Animal Shelter, where 45 animals found new homes just in the first two hours of the day.
Nationwide over the past three weeks, more than 77,000 pets had been adopted as 5:20 p.m. Saturday. But every year, 6.5 million animals end up in shelters nationwide — and only 3.2 million are adopted, according to the ASPCA.
The goal of Clear the Shelters is to find forever homes for as many animals as possible.
"I mean, it just goes without saying that every dog deserves a home, and there are too many dogs that are found on the street or that they're being overbred and they're just — there's no reason why you shouldn't go to a shelter and adopt a dog," Gevov said.
NBC4's Chuck Bell and Wendy Rieger contributed to this report.