In a historic day at animal shelters across Dallas-Fort Worth, "Empty the Shelter Day" did pretty much what it set out to do: On August 16, more than 2,200 animals were adopted at 33 shelters from Fort Worth to Irving to Dallas to Garland.
The event was an effort to find homes for the hundreds of pets sitting in shelters across Dallas-Fort Worth. An unprecedented number of cities and animal shelters, both municipal and non-profit, came together to offer free adoptions for one day. It was the largest adoption effort ever held locally, and what the partners hoped would be the largest multi-city, multi-county adoption event in the United States.
Grappling with the usual surplus of animals that besiege shelters every summer, participating shelters from Arlington to Wylie waived their usual adoption fees to clear out their overcrowded cages. Adopters lined up, waiting up to three hours for the opportunity to rescue a pet.
By end of day on Saturday, organizer Corey Price, manager at Animal Services in Irving and the organizer of the effort, told NBC that 2,217 animals had found new homes.
The numbers stacked up:
- 149 at Dallas Animal Services
- 157 at two shelters in Irving
- 133 in Arlington
- 325 through the Humane Society of North Texas
- 163 SPCA
- 102 at Weatherford Parker County Animal Shelter; according to one staffer, they not only emptied their kennels, but they also adoped two loads of animals that were brought in from an Azle animal shelter
- 111 at Collin County Animal Shelter
- 81 at Grand Prairie Animal Shelter
- 53 in Burleson
- 69 in Lewisville
Other participating shelters included those in Plano, North Richland Hills, Wylie and Mesquite, who cleared out their kennels. Keller had only three dogs left. Garland Animal Shelter adopted out all of their available cats and kittens and all but two of their dogs.
On a typical Saturday at Dallas Animal Services, about 30 pets might be adopted. Adoption fees at shelters typically run from $50 to $150, depending on the shelter and services involved. Some require a deposit to guarantee that the pet is spayed or neutered. While the idea of "free" was enticing, the event was just as much about raising the profile of shelters and promoting the idea that adopting animals there is a good idea.
"When we get support from the community, something this incredible is what happens," Price says. "Coming off this, I hope that the beneficial outcome will be more than the adoption, and that it gets everyone to take a second look at their shelters."
Participants acknowledged that Empty the Shelter was a short-term fix to a bigger problem. Within a week, those shelters will likely be full again, and more than 150,000 animals die every year in shelters around Dallas-Fort Worth.
"But 2,200 pets found homes today," said DAS spokeswoman Rebecca Poling. "It's about awareness, building excitement around adopting and getting people in the door.
"This gave people a chance to help save a life," she says. "Many, many of them waited hours, but they were determined. They wanted to do something to help reduce the number of animals being euthanized, and this was what they could do."