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More Than 1,200 Animals Adopted on Clear The Shelters Day in DC, Md. and Va.

There was always something about Bubba.

The sweet shepherd mix was calm around admirers. He enjoyed a good ear-petting. He knew how to sit and lie down and was happy to show you.

But he'd been in the Washington Humane Society in Washington, D.C. for a long time, at least in shelter days: About a month. That is, until a forever family stepped up to bring him home Saturday.

"We're just so excited," said Bubba's adoptive mom. Her son is 15, a great age for a dog, she said.

Bubba chewed on a toy and wagged his tail.

Bubba was one of more than 1,200 animals in the D.C., Baltimore and surrounding areas who found homes in the area's first Clear the Shelters day. Nationwide, almost 20,000 animals were adopted Saturday in adoption efforts sponsored by NBC4 and NBC stations across the country.

They weren't all dogs. Also adopted at the 24 participating shelters in our area were a hamster, a ferret, two rabbits, two turtles and a pig named Channing Tatum. 

Also adopted, all from Loudoun County Animal Services: an iguana, a chinchilla, a pigeon, a dove, and five chickens.

Every animal had a story, but perhaps none as heart-rending as that of Beatrix, an adult cat who had been found abandoned in a cart at a Virginia Wal-mart with a bowl and a bag of food. Beatrix's plight had been in the Washington Post, but she had been overlooked for adoption since late March.

"We tried videos, photo shoots, reducing adoption fees, everything we could think of, and Beatrix still was not getting adopted," said Stephanie Gordon, volunteer and humane education coordinator for Loudoun County Animal Services, in an email.

"But that changed today! She was adopted with a buddy she met at the shelter, Bart, another 8-year-old kitty. We are over the moon excited for them," Gordon said.

Hannah the pit bull left her Maryland shelter Saturday with her new family -- and a pink tutu.

The tutu came courtsey of a volunteer at the Humane Society of Calvert County in Sunderland, Maryland, who wanted to dress up the happy pit bull.

The family, Amanda Krutilla, her 20-month-old son, Jax, and finance, Jason Bowles, was a result of the nationwide adoption drive. Hannah is Krutilla's second of the breed.

"They're just the biggest babies," said Krutilla, of California, Maryland. "Her tutu defines her."

In all, 11 NBC-owned television stations, the New England regional news network necn, and 17 Telemundo owned stations joined the Clear the Shelters movement. More than 400 shelters participated, many offering the animals at a reduced price.

With the cost of adoption up to $450 in some cities, many families cannot otherwise afford a new pet, said Valari Staab, the president of NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations.

The day had just begun Saturday when a 2-month-old kitten named June was headed out the door of the Patricia H. Ladew Foundation, a cat sanctuary in Oyster Bay, New York.

Kristen Pytell had seen her on Monday with her children, 11-year-old old Harry, Oliver, 9, and Lila, 7, and they knew she would be their first cat.

“My kids and I fell in love with her,” said Pytell, and so they arrived first thing to bring her home.

About 7.6 million animals enter shelters across the country each year, 3.9 million dogs and 3.4 million cats, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Each year an equal number are adopted or euthanized, about 2.7 million for each case. About 649,000 strays are returned to their owners, the majority of them dogs.

Clear the Shelters began in North Texas as a partnership among NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth / KXAS, Telemundo 39 Dallas-Fort Worth / KXTX and dozens of North Texas animal shelters.

At the Salem New Hampshire Animal Rescue League, a pit bull named Baby — a 3-year-old surrendered a few weeks ago — was the first headed out the door this morning.

“We are really excited that the first adoption of the day on this great Clear the Shelters initiative was a pit bull,” said the shelter’s spokesman, B.J. Bettencourt. “Pit bulls can be a challenge to adopt, so we are thrilled that Baby found a home this morning.”

His new owner, Charlie Foote, a retired firefighter turned dog trainer, was not heading for the Salem Animal Rescue League. He happened to drive by, stop and spot Baby, who will have a new name by tonight, he said.

“I instantly saw him and said I want that dog,” he said.

Foote, of Derry, New Hampshire, has four other dogs at home and four children ages 6 to 12. Baby is already fitting in well if still a little shy, he said Saturday afternoon.

“They have a bad reputation, a bad name,” he said. “I have a house full of little kids and these dogs are phenomenal.”

Lines quickly formed outside such places as the New Hampshire SPCA in Stratham, New Hampshire, Miami-Dade Florida Animal Services and Prince George’s Animal Services Facility in Upper Marlboro. Red carpets were going down so the new owners could be photographed with their furry friends.

The Farago family — Laura, Andrew and 7 1/2-year-old Aaron — left the New Hampshire SPCA with a new puppy, a black lab mix that does not yet have a new name. They had to put their older dog down in the spring.

“We couldn’t last any longer without a dog,” Laura Farago said. “And we wanted our son to grow up with a dog.”

The three of them chose the puppy together, and Aaron was thrilled, she said.

“Oh yes,” she said. “He’s a little tired from the process, but yes.”

In Miami, 13-year-old Zipporah Currie said her new dog, Dolly, smelled like cookies.

Adoption Tracker

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The second adoption at the Ladew sanctuary in Oyster Bay was another kitten, Chase. Sarah Freeman and Matthew Boyle wanted a second cat to keep their 5-year-old adoptee Boo company.

“He’s wonderful,” Freeman said of Boo, who was also from the Ladew sanctuary. “He likes to watch the birdies out the window and he likes to hang out with us."

Staab hopes that the adoption drive would become an annual event and to further that goal next year’s date has already been set: July 16. A recurring drive can help make people aware of how important it is to spay and neuter their pets, she said. And the advance notice will give shelters time to raise money to offset that cost of spaying and neutering and vaccinations, she said.

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