‘I Fell in Love Right Away': Pets Find Forever Homes During Clear the Shelters

Since this year’s event was launched on July 27, more than 90,000 pets have been adopted

Teddy, a catahoula leopard dog mix, was originally taken in at the Morris Animal Refuge in Philadelphia back in January. And after a few failed adoptions, the hearing impaired dog was returned in June and sat at the shelter waiting for the perfect family who would be patient enough to fullfil his needs. 

Emmy Homan, the shelter's development manager, told NBC Teddy is a sweet dog and eager to learn, she just needed extra training and attention.  

Thanks to social media, a Philadelphia family came across Teddy's story on Twitter and knew they found the perfect pet for their family. That's because their daughter is also Deaf. On Saturday, they stopped by the shelter during its Clear the Shelters event to meet their new four-legged family member. 

Teddy's new family said they look forward to teaching their new furry family member sign language.

teddy Morris Animal Rescue
Morris Animal Refuge
Teddy is pictured with her new family.

Clear the Shelters, the fifth annual pet adoption drive sponsored by NBC and Telemundo stations, culminated Saturday with more than 2,000 shelters participating in dozens of communities across the country.

Animals lovers nationwide lined up early for a chance to find the purrfect pet to take home.

At the New Hampshire Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, all adoptable dogs found new homes within hours of opening its doors, NBC Boston reported.  

One of those lucky dogs was Irie, a 5-year-old mix-breed that was adopted by Chandler Solsky, of Rochester.

"I fell in love right away. We came a couple of days ago and we saw her and we had to come back and get her," Solsky said.

And in Connecticut, the North Haven Animal Control cleared its shelters on Saturday, including finding a home for two senior cats that became homeless two months ago after their owner died. 

The North Haven Animal Control in Connecticut cleared its shelters on Saturday, including finding a home for two senior cats that became homeless two months ago after their owner died.

"We were hopeful to get them adopted together, but was really shocked when a family walked in today and wanted to make them part of their family," Assistant Animal Control Officer Chrystal Tashaba told NBC, noting that senior pets are typically overlooked. "So, to get them both in the same home made it all worth it."  

And they weren't the only feline sisters to get adopted together. Colleen and Collette, both one-year-old kittens, were adopted from PAWS Chicago during Clear the Shelters.

Julia Poukatch, the shelter's communications associate, told NBC that the two kittens have been at the shelter since January and were always very reserved and fearful, making it hard for them to connect with potential adopters. Enter Chicago residents Jaycee and Marisa, who have had prior experience with fearful cats and were more than willing to give the girls the time they need to come out of their shell. Colleen and Collete not only have new homes, but also each other to help them adjust to their new life. 

Colleen and Collete
PAWS Chicago
Colleen and Collette, both one-year-old kittens, were adopted from PAWS Chicago during Clear the Shelters

Since this year’s event was launched on July 27, more than 90,000 pets have been adopted. To encourage families to find a new pet, many of the participating animal shelters and rescue organizations reduced or waived adoption fees.

At the Austin Humane Society, in Austin, Texas, shelter manager Sarah Hammel was hoping that Lamb, a 5-year-old Pit bull and the shelter's longest resident, would finally get his forever home. Hammel told NBC that Lamb was transferred to the shelter back in 2017 when flood waters from hurricane Harvey forced the evacuations of local shelter pets, and he's been "in and out of the [Austin Humane Society] due to a lot of bad luck and through no fault of his own." On Saturday, Reyna Almaguer, of Austin, walked into the shelter and instantly fell in love with Lamb. The feeling was mutual. 

"It was instant love," Hammel said.

Lamb Austin Humane Society
Austin Humane Society
(L-R)Lamb when he arrived at AHS in 2017 after Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston, Texas. On Aug. 17, 2019, Lamb was excited to finally get adopted.

King, a 5-year-old pit mix, was surrendered by its owner last month and arrived at the NYC Animal Control Center on July 24. But, "the biggest wiggler in the shelter" shimmied his way into the heart of a new pet parent on Saturday. King received a royal goodbye as he left the Brooklyn shelter.

Studies show that pet ownership provides a number of health benefits. A furry companion has the ability to comfort humans healing from loss or other trauma. For two sisters in Washington, D.C., still grieving from the loss of their Pit bull who died recently of cancer, finding the purrfect pet almost seemed heaven-sent.

Deirdre and Kirsten Wright adopted Sally from the D.C. Humane Rescue Alliance after another family had earlier in the day adopted her, but then returned her 15 minutes later because the 2-year-old Pit bull mix didn't get along with another dog they already had. The sisters from Alexandria, Virginia, had fallen in love in Sally days earlier but thought they missed out on getting her first. When they found out Sally was back on the market, Deirdre Wright told NBC Washington that their recently deceased Pit bull, who was fittingly named Angel, must have intervened.

Animal experts say pets often process loss in a manner similar to humans. In a recent newsletter published by the Funeral Consumer Alliance of Maine, researcher Jessica Pierce says a growing body of research into 'animal thanatology' suggests common pets such as dogs and cats seem to share with humans many behavioral reactions to death, such as mourning and rituals of farewell, NBC affiliate WCSH reports.

"I think that [Angel] didn't want me to be sad. And she just wanted me to like, help another dog," Deirdre Wright said through tears. 

Meanwhile, in South Florida, Herbert, an 8-year-old American Staffordshire who has been at the shelter for more than a year, finally got his forever home. New pet owner Dana Powmesamy told NBC Miami she was excited to welcome Herbert to her family.

"He's adorable, my son loved him right off the bat," Powmesamy said. "I think we're all just gonna love having him."

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Although dogs and cats were by far the most common pets to be adopted, even some feathery animals were rescued on Saturday. Bob, a 4 1/2-month-old White Crested Black Polish rooster was adopted from the Stonington-Animal Rescue Project in Connecticut. "Bob the Rooster," as he's called, is headed to Covernty, Rhode Island, where he will join seven hens in his new home. 

Bob the Rooster was adopted from the Stonington Animal Rescue Project during Clear the Shelters. His new owner, pictured left, took Bob to his forever home in Coventry, Rhode Island.

And Bob wasn't the only uncommon pet adopted on Clear the Shelters day. Rabbits and guinea pigs in New England also found their forever homes. 

Shelters in Florida, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina, Missouri, New York and Kansas all reported clearing their kennels and finding homes for pets in need.

"We shot for the moon and landed among the stars," the Helping Hands Humane Society of Topeka, Kansas, wrote in a Facebook post announcing their shelter had been cleared.

Still, the need remains great. The number of animals entering shelters each year is about 6.5 million, 3.3 million dogs and 3.2 million cats, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Though the number has declined from about 7.2 million in 2011, with the biggest drop in the number dogs, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized each year.

On the happier side, about 3.2 million shelter animals are adopted annually and another 710,000 are returned to their owners.

Clear the Shelters began in North Texas in 2014 as a partnership among the NBC and Telemundo stations in Dallas-Fort Worth and dozens of North Texas animal shelters. More than 2,200 homeless animals were adopted that first year, the most in a single day in North Texas.

A year later that number jumped to nearly 20,000 as the adoption drive went national, with more than 400 shelters taking part across the country. Last year, as the event was extended over a month, more than 100,000 pets were adopted from over 1,200 shelters.

Across the country thousands of animals are finding forever homes. Watch some of these lucky pets as they meet their new families for the very first time.

During Clear The Shelters 2018, pets of all types found their forever home, including "Bailey" a long-haired Chihuahua-mix puppy from Orange County, California, who was adopted by a veteran and his family. In New Hampshire, "Baby," a 15-year old senior cat was adopted after being a hospice resident at a Massachusetts shelter. One year later, Baby is off her medications and showers her new family with unconditional love. In Texas, a yellow Labrador named "Pepperjack" who found wandering the streets of Texas City, spent weeks at the Galveston County animal shelter before a Sante Fe family adopted him during Clear the Shelters. One year later, the once stray who was renamed "Jake," is living his best life enjoying the great outdoors of the family's lake property and helping his new parents take care of their horses.

"The love that these dogs give you is worth it," Bailey's owner Don Winderman said. "All they need is love. And really, if people gave out more love than hate this country would be a lot better — and the whole world would be better."

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