The fifth annual Clear the Shelters drive set a new record for the tri-state area, with more than 12,000 adoptions recorded across the region for the first time ever.
Saturday's event wrapped up with 12,073 pet adoptions across the tri-state — a 22 percent increase from last year, and more than 10 times the number of adoptions recorded five years ago.
More than 2,000 shelters and rescue organizations across the country participated in the adoption drive, which is sponsored by NBC and Telemundo stations.
This year, 134 shelters and rescue organizations joined the tri-state campaign, rising from 42 participants in the inaugural 2015 tri-state campaign.
To encourage families to find a new pet, many of the participating animal shelters and rescue organizations reduced or waived adoption fees.
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.
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 Stongington-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.
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.
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."