It's Time to Clear the Shelters and Get All Pets New Homes

Bert and Winter are two of the pets available for adoption at the . Humane Society of North Texas

By the end of the day Saturday, many animal shelters across the country will be eerily silent. No barking or meowing, no whining or whimpering. There won't be any dogs or cats looking for food or attention. Everyone will have found a home — or at least that's the goal.

Aug. 19 is Clear the Shelters, a nationwide pet adoption drive during which hundreds of shelters across the country will offer free or reduced adoption fees in hopes of finding every pet a family.

On a typical Saturday at the Humane Society of North Texas in Fort Worth, they'll find homes for maybe 40 or 50 pets. The adoption fee ranges from $75 to $285 depending on several things, including the type of pet and its age.

Last year during Clear the Shelters, 465 animals found homes at the shelter in a single day. This year, the goal is 500, says Sandy Shelby, the shelter's director of major gifts and public relations.

"We'll have lots of volunteers and it's all hands on deck," says Shelby, who has arranged for food trucks to feed the hundreds of people who will be patiently waiting in line to find their new best friends.

People will be prescreened before they even step in the door and they'll go through the same screening and application process as they would any other day. The shelter is just prepared to do it on a much larger scale with medical records and applications preprinted and ready to go.

Staff members and volunteers who know the animals will be on hand to talk to adopters to make the best match.

"We'll usually tell the animal's story, at least what we know of it," Shelby says. "We give them as much information as we have to try to make it a great adoption."

Not a vacation

Just because the kennels and cages are empty on Saturday doesn't mean shelter workers get to take it easy ... not for long anyway. Last year, Shelby says, the Fort Worth shelter was filled to capacity again only three days after the shelter-emptying event.

This year, they hope to use the day or two when the kennels are empty to make a few minor renovations to the shelter's HVAC and sound abatement systems.

"Benefits: our day doesn’t change one bit. We all still come in the next day. Last year we were full again in three days. The only thing that is a benefit to us is for a couple days we have a lot of open kennels. This year

No need to worry

Adopters line up at Young-Williams Animal Center in Knoxville.
Adopters line up at Young-Williams Animal Center in Knoxville. Young-Williams Animal Center/Facebook

Some animal lovers have expressed concern to participating shelters that if animals are free, they won't be loved or wanted. Shelter workers say that isn't the case.

As noted, the screening and adoption process is exactly the same.

Young-Williams Animal Center in Knoxville posted a reassuring public service announcement on the shelter's Facebook page:

PSA: to everyone concerned that our pets may have gone to the wrong homes this weekend, just because they're free... We completely understand your concern. However, what we've learned and know is that there's no corroboration between a fee for an animal and the ability/desire for someone to be a loving pet parent. Our great adoption team still has a vetting process and one-on-one conversations with potential adopters to understand their lifestyle, habits and ability to be a good owner in order to match them with an animal that is the best fit. We are all about what's best for the animal and work hard to ensure they're placed in happy, healthy homes. Not everyone is approved for adoption. For us, we find it better for the pets to find quicker homes rather than getting stressed waiting around in the shelter environment. This also helps us save our daily medical costs and so forth. Thank you for understanding, and remember, adopt, don't shop.

At Young-Williams they recently held a five-day reduced-fee event leading up to Clear the Shelters where they emptied their kennels for the first time in history, says marketing manager Courtney Kliman. They even had to close their satellite shelter because they had no animals left to adopt.

"It's looking pretty bare; it's so crazy," Kliman says, laughing. "I guess we can always deep clean. It's been so weird to have this happen. We never thought we'd have to close one of our facilities."

Though the shelter was freakishly quiet and vacant for a few days, it's beginning to fill up and she knows they'll have plenty of pets for adoption on Aug. 19.

A big idea

A few years ago, Corey Price, the animal services manager for the city of Irving, Texas, came up with the idea for a big day to empty area shelters by offering free adoptions. She convinced a few dozen north Texas shelters to join in the effort.

Then many NBC and Telemundo stations partnered with the event, offering lots of coverage throughout the country. More shelters became part of the program, and Petco jumped on board with information and coupons for new pet families. Since Clear the Shelters went nationwide in 2015, more than 73,000 pets have been adopted.

Itching to add a new furry friend to your family this weekend? Click on the map to find a participating shelter near you.