Tilda the pug terrier mix, Charizard the iguana, Rose the Huskie and more than 20,000 other animals found new homes on Saturday as NBC’s pet adoption drive emptied shelters across the country.
More than 45,000 pets in all were adopted this month as part of the second annual Clear the Shelters campaign, after more than 40 local NBC and Telemundo television stations teamed up with more than 680 animal shelters in states across the country and in Puerto Rico. The shelters offered no-cost or reduced-fee adoptions, or they waived spaying and neutering fees to help families bring home dogs, cats and unusual animals like the iguana.
Pet owners who mentioned the campaign during the adoption process were included in NBC's 2016 count, which was more than twice the number of animals given forever homes during last year's event.
"Our entire division of NECN, Telemundo and NBC stations and our corporate staff are overwhelmed and thrilled with the extraordinary results of this year's Clear The Shelters event,” said Valari Staab, the president of NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations. "We want to thank all of our shelters, NBC and Telemundo affiliates that joined us this year and our partners, including Petco and VIP Petcare. Together, we emptied at least 13 shelters and found more than 45,000 animals new loving homes."
The BARCS animal shelter in Baltimore was emptied of dogs in just six hours on Saturday, one of numerous shelters cleared as pet lovers came forward to take in homeless animals.
"Empty cages!" the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter wrote on Facebook in a post that showed shelter workers waving goodbye from the cages. "All of these doggies found homes today during Clear the Shelters."
Thirty-seven dogs went to new homes and another 35 adoptions are pending, the applications competed but the animals still needing to be spayed or neutered.
Eleven other shelters in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas were also cleared, with 2,894 animals adopted on Saturday.
Within minutes of opening its doors Saturday morning, the Stonington Animal Rescue Project in Stonington, Connecticut, had found homes for all of its kittens.
Kittens are always popular but shelter officials were unprepared for the speed at which these 13 were adopted at the beginning of NBC's second annual Clear the Shelters drive.
"We were totally cleared by 10:10," said Brooke Russell, who is charge of social media for the shelter.
Still to find homes at the Stonington shelter: two guinea pigs, some roosters, barn cats and a few older cats, Russell said.
"We're an all-species rescue group," she said. "We rescue any animal in need of help."
In New York, a Huskie named Rose reached the end of a long journey that began a month and a half ago in Turkey.
Rescued by a woman in Turkey, Rose and another dog, a Doberman, were flown to the Westchester County chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Briarcliff Manor.
The Doberman was adopted quickly but Rose is a bit unsteady on her feet, a result of a neurological syndrome that made her more difficult to place until Saturday, when a man who seemed a perfect fit came in and took her home to Connecticut.
"She’s going to fine for her life but it's just something to look out for and keep on top of," said the shelter’s executive director, Shannon Laukhuf. "When you see her walk, she's usually fine but every ten steps she might sway a little bit."
"She doesn’t let it stop her," Laukhuf added. "She's just the most playful dog. She loves other animals, she's great with kids."
Nearly 20,000 animals found new homes last August during Clear the Shelters, among them Roxie. An older pit bull, she was left in a backyard in Stockton, California, when the woman who owned her went to prison. She had been well cared but ended up at the city shelter, shivering, anxious and unable to walk.
Another dog thought to be her daughter was adopted but she languished until she was moved to the Muttville Senior Dog Rescue in San Francisco in time for NBC's nationwide pet adoption drive last year. And there she met Terry and Doug Burke.
They took her home and showered her with affection.
"Roxie is thriving," Doug Burke said. "She's loving her life."
At the Muttville Senior Dog Rescue on Saturday, Jennifer Gonzalez of Santa Cruz wanted a calm and mellow lap dog and she got just that, in Santana, an 11-year-old Yorkie mix.
Beth Martin, who has already adopted three dogs and fostered 22 others, fell in love with Peggy Sue, a terrier mix stray from Sacramento with a broken leg. The two went home to Silicon Valley.
Ruben Echeverria Hernandez wanted another dog who needed attention and Ringo Starr fit the bill. He joins a home with two other dogs. Hernandez was diagnosed with AIDS and said the dogs keep him happy and busy.
And Sue and Sasha Smirensky brought home Tilda, a pug terrier mix, to join them and Pickle for their walks on Half Moon Bay every morning.
Natalie Morales, NBC News' West Coast anchor for the "Today" show, will host a 30-minute special on Friday, July 29 to recap the day. It will air on the NBC Owned Television Stations and on more than 120 NBC affiliated stations.
A similar show airing on the Telemundo stations will be co-hosted by Stephanie Himonidis, known as "Chiquibaby," and Elva Saray, hosts of the daily entertainment show "Acceso Total" on Telemundo 52 Los Angeles or KVEA.
The Muttville shelter had about 80 dogs available for adoption Saturday — of all types and sizes, from 3 to 110 pounds. They were strays or lost their homes when their owners moved, went into nursing homes, died or in some other way were no longer able to care for them. The one thing the mutts have in common is that they are all at least 7 years old.
"What you see is what you get," said Sherri Franklin, founder and executive director of the Muttville shelter. "Their personalities are already formed. A lot of our dogs have grown up in families so we sometimes are able to give that kind of background on the dog. They're trained, they're not going to chew up your shoes."
Last year's mood was festive, drawing in people who might have been putting off getting a dog, she said. At the end of the day, 19 dogs had new homes.
Muttville is on what's known as "Rescue Row," which it shares with the Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the San Francisco Animal Care and Control shelter and the Northern California Family Dog Rescue.
"If you're looking to adopt, you can find anything on Rescue Row," said Patty Stanton, who handles the shelter's public relations.
Roxie is the second dog the Burkes have adopted from Muttville — and their fourth rescue dog in all — and she has been playing with Doug Burke from the first day in their home.
"And she hasn’t stopped since," Terry Burke wrote in describing the adoption. "Except to eat and sleep, both of which she also enjoys tremendously. Along with giving little tiny kisses, which my friend told me from pit bulls are called 'pibbles.'"