Animal Planet event helps Philadelphia dogs and animal shelters
When Moby, a French bulldog, arrived at Harley’s Haven Dog Rescue in Perkasie, he had been delivered by Caesarean section just 30 minutes earlier. Born with a cleft palate, he needed round-the-clock care early in his life.
When Forrest, a Neapolitan Mastiff-Cane Corso mix, arrived at Brandywine Valley SPCA after being seized from its former owners in a Chester County cruelty case, it was in such poor condition that it had lost an eye. Tater Tot, an American Staffordshire terrier-pit bull terrier mix, was found abandoned in a vacant home. And Brooke, a beagle-treeing coonhound walker mix, came as a puppy from an overcrowded shelter in the south, where she was left in a box with her eight siblings.
And when sisters Missy and Blondie, both beagle and Australian cattle dog mixes, were born in Providence Animal Center in the media, their pregnant mother, Cricket, had also recently arrived from a crowded Southern shelter.
But despite their rocky beginnings — and, in some cases, abandonment or mistreatment by previous owners — these local dogs have found happy homes. And, as a bonus, they’re all heading to the Puppy Bowl.
In its 18th year, Puppy Bowl 2022 will feature more than 100 puppies from 67 shelters and rescues across the country — including six in the Philadelphia area who send 10 dogs in total. And while the Puppy Bowl is known for being a painfully cute event that pits Team Ruff against Team Fluff for the “Lombarky” trophy on Super Bowl Sunday, for many of these rescues and shelters, means more than just entertainment.
Puppy Bowl “shatters stereotypes about what adoption means and what shelters have,” said Linda Torelli, Marketing Director of Brandywine Valley SPCA. “Some people think that shelters only have ‘broken animals’, or animals that no one else wants, or animals with a lot of problems. The truth is, they are great companions who come here for a wide variety of reasons.In most cases, it has nothing to do with the animals themselves.
In addition to raising awareness, it also combats the misconception that shelters typically only have adult or senior dogs available, said Justina Calgiano, director of advancement and public relations at Providence Animal Shelter. After all, every dog in Puppy Bowl comes from a shelter, “so they’re not puppies acquired by other means” besides having been rescued.
“We love when people adopt our adult animals, but for people who think they have to buy a juvenile, that’s not the case,” she said. “And that’s probably the strongest message that Puppy Bowl sends.”
Participating also tends to help shelters, especially if their dogs are featured on starting lineup, which results in an on-air cry for puppies and their shelters. But, for at least some of the rescues, Puppy Bowl usually gets attention and website traffic, as well as more people calling to ask questions about adoption or promotion processes. And, ultimately, it benefits the dogs far beyond those participating in the event.
“We’ve already had people reach out to us, and I’m sure we’ll have more after it airs,” said Alison Flanagan, executive director of Harley’s Haven (and, incidentally, Moby’s adoptive mother, who took him in permanently after intending to feed him only briefly – a so-called “placement failure”). One woman even signed up to become a foster after seeing an advertisement for Puppy Bowl.
Similarly, Torelli and Calgiano said Brandywine Valley SPCA and Providence also see spikes in adoption and promotion interest around the time of Puppy Bowl. And that, Calgiano said, is especially welcome in February, when adoptions tend to slow (usually, adoptions are at their peak in December, around winter vacation).
Still, it’s hard to track and quantify the direct impact Puppy Bowl has on shelters like Providence Animal Center, Calgiano said. But, ultimately, she hopes the event – along with other efforts like NBC’s Annual Clear the Shelters Promotion — plants a seed to develop interest in adoption and foster care.
Of course, the benefits of Puppy Bowl don’t come without some work on the shelter pieces. Once filmed in New York, the event was moved to Glens Falls, NY, due to the pandemic – about a four-hour drive from Philly, twice the distance from NYC.
Besides the increased travel time, there’s also the COVID-19 stipulation of having only one human allowed per pet, as well as finding and booking a pet-friendly hotel, rounding up puppies to participate to filming days and dealing with the sheer chaos of spending hours with around 100 other young dogs.
But, considering the impact it can have on these shelters and rescues — and on adoption and fostering in general — it’s worth it.
“I wouldn’t say it’s the easiest experience,” Calgiano said. “But at the end of the day, it’s definitely worth it for the outcome of people thinking adoption first rather than anything else.”