11 happy pet tales from national adoption weekend

Person reaching out to touch a smiling red heeler type dog
Best Friends’ first national adoption weekend of 2023 finds loving homes for thousands of pets.
By Best Friends staff

A 14-year-old cat who bunny hops instead of walking. A German shepherd who went home with a couple who’d recently lost their dog of the same breed. A family who chose adoption over supporting puppy mills. There were thousands of stories, each about a once-homeless pet who got adopted during Best Friends Animal Society’s first of two planned national adoption weekends of 2023.

The event was a huge success to free up much-needed space in shelters and rescue groups across the country — and to find loving homes for nearly 9,500 dogs and cats. This was a 30% increase in dog and cat adoptions for participants from the same time last year.

Adoption promotions like these are an important way Best Friends is supporting shelters and rescue groups in our goal to bring the entire country to no-kill by 2025.

Best Friends provided nearly 600 participating network partners with over $232,000 in adoption stipends for national adoption weekend. Although participants were not required to waive or reduce their fees, almost two-thirds of organizations that took part chose to do so because low or no-fee adoptions save more lives.

While there were many heartwarming tales from the weekend event, here are some stories that our participants graciously shared with us (along with some fabulous pictures to boot).

Animal Rescue League of Berks County, Pennsylvania

“We had unprecedented success during this event weekend,” shares staff from Animal Rescue League of Berks County. They adopted out 55 cats and 18 dogs during the event, but they shared that one adoption meant the world to them. Arrow had been there since February, making him a member of their “100-day club” — animals who have been in the shelter’s care for more than 100 days. Arrow was a shy and timid dog, often needing slow introductions, and he needed to be in a single-pet household. But his big day came when he got adopted during the event. The staff say, “We couldn't be happier that he found his family!”

Rhea County Animal Shelter, Tennessee

Lilo the smoke-colored tabby-and-white kitty wasted no time working her magic on a family with five lively children who came into Rhea County Animal Shelter set on adding a feline to their busy household. From the moment Lilo wrapped her paws around the middle child, they knew it was meant to be. Then the mom asked about the adoption fee. “Our adoption counselor shared the heartwarming news: It was a ‘name your own adoption fee’ event,” says shelter board treasurer Renee Milner. “In that moment, each child reached into their tiny pocket and pulled out a dollar bill, eager to contribute. Smiling brightly, the youngest child spoke up, “We raided our piggy banks and each put in a dollar. Will it be enough?" It was more than enough. “Lilo's adoption not only marked the beginning of a beautiful bond but also brought forth the kindness and generosity of these five remarkable children,” Renee adds. “In this simple act of giving, they had unknowingly enriched their lives and forever changed Lilo's fate.”

Animal Protective Association of Missouri

Why just adopt one new family member when you can bring home two? That’s what happened for Kerry the dog and Hugh the kitten, when they were two of the 73 pets adopted from Animal Protective Association of Missouri. Kerry had been there since May after she was found wandering alone in the community and no one claimed her. The shelter reports that most dogs who arrive there typically go to new homes in about five days, but it took longer for Kerry. The first day of national adoption weekend did the trick, and her wait for a new home was over. Plus, she has a kitten to be her new BFF.

The August Fund, Alaska

For one Alaskan family, national adoption weekend was not only an opportunity to adopt a new dog, but it was also a chance to adopt rather than shop. “The family had posted on social media about seeing puppies for sale out of a car in front of a local grocery and the people asking $1,000,” says The August Fund co-founder Julie St. Louis. “While educating them on the cons of supporting a bad puppy mill situation that local animal control is trying to put a stop to, we also encouraged them to come to our adoption event for a puppy with a far lower adoption fee thanks to Best Friends. They would also get a dog with a guarantee of all age-appropriate vaccinations and a promise that if the pup were not the right fit, we’d take them back no questions asked.” That was a deal the family couldn’t pass up, and they left the shelter with a new wriggly shepherd mix puppy.

Rock N’ Rescue, New York

It seems that kitty Lewis was meant to go home during national adoption weekend. He’d come to New York from a shelter in Kentucky, and U.S. Army veteran Howard liked him immediately when the two met. “His previous cat had passed, and he missed the company of a little furry friend,” says the shelter staff. They adopted out Lewis for no charge to his new home and shared, “They are getting along famously already!”

BlueFeather Horse Sanctuary and Misfit Mustangs, Nevada

BlueFeather may focus on horses, but it takes in other animals too. That includes a dog named Sprout, who was an instant fit for a family who came in to meet him during the event. As the shelter staff chatted with Sprout’s new people, they found it truly was meant to be. “Through our conversation we realized that this family and our family know the same people in California and grew up in the same areas,” says co-founder Rebecca Flowers. “What a coincidence!” The event also ended in several animals getting adopted by veterans because the shelter waived fees for them in honor of Independence Day. “I am so happy we were able to help so many,” Rebecca says. “I think this is an event we will do every year.”

SFC Virginia

Cats and kittens inundate shelters and rescue groups everywhere during kitten season, so SFC Virginia (short for “Squishy Face Crew”) held a secondary feline-only event on Sunday of national adoption weekend to highlight their cat and kitten friends. They shared, “We were thrilled to see Shmi, one of our mama cats who has FIV, find a home along with another kitten in our care. Shmi doesn't love adoption events and hadn't presented well at our primary event that weekend.” At the Sunday event, their volunteers were able to use the more isolated cat condo space at PetSmart to do a good introduction with the potential adopter. “Our volunteers also provided information about FIV, so the adopter could make an educated choice and understand without the fearmongering that often comes along with an FIV diagnosis.” Shmi was one of the 31 cats and nine dogs to land new homes by the end of national adoption weekend. Congratulations, Shmi! (Editor’s note: There isn’t a photo of Shmi’s adoption, but another kitten from the event is pictured here with her new family.)

Animal Rescue League of Iowa

A total of 76 cats and 34 dogs went home from Animal Rescue League of Iowa, and one of their favorite stories was Clyde’s. They shared that a couple came after recently losing their German shepherd to bone cancer. “Once Clyde was in the meet-and-greet room, he immediately ran to Jerry and then Dana. He showed them his tricks and wanted belly rubs. It didn't take long before everyone knew it was a done deal and Clyde was going home.”

Cat Adoption Team, Oregon

Tiny Tim went to Cat Adoption Team (CAT) from a rural shelter in Southern Oregon because she needed special care. The friendly 14-year-old kitty has a malformation of her spine that causes an abnormal posture and a bunny-hopping walk. But joint supplements, pain meds, and regular exercise keep her comfortable. Staff at CAT shared, “She enjoys being petted, held, and snuggled. She also loves toys and all people — so it's no surprise someone met her during national adoption weekend and immediately fell in love!” Her adopters already shared an update and photo of her from her first night at home. “All of us at Cat Adoption Team are grateful to Best Friends for hosting an event to help more pets and people fall in love nationwide.”

Oklahoma Humane Society

Two of the dogs adopted from Oklahoma Humane Society during the Best Friends national adoption weekend had an incredible journey prior to landing in their loving homes. Walter and Little Orphan Annie were part of a headline-making animal cruelty case about an alleged illegal backyard breeding operation. “The people loaded 36 dogs in the cargo area of a moving truck and left it in a parking lot,” says Rachel Findley, OK Humane’s director of marketing. “When Oklahoma City’s animal control officers found the dogs, it was early June, and the inside of the vehicle registered more than 100 degrees.” OK Humane took 17 of the dogs into its foster program and helped restore them to health. “Although their journey began in a heartbreaking way, all the dogs are now happy, healthy, and home with their new doting adopters. The stipends provided by Best Friends will allow OK Humane to continue being able to step up and help when unfortunate situations like this case occur.”

Bossier City Animal Services, Louisiana

Miss Rosey had been at Bossier City Animal Services for 72 days — 72 very long days according to the shelter staff. “She hated the noise, the barking big dogs, and the loneliness of her kennel. Meeting new people was a struggle for her. Some days getting off her bed was not even worth it for her.” Then, a man from Arkansas saw one of her snapshots online, read her story, and took a road trip to come get her. “She did not have to be perfect; she was just Rosey, a little white pit bull terrier-type dog who needed to be loved.”

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