LOS ANGELES (AP) - There will be a winner and a loser every Super Bowl Sunday. But at the "Puppy Bowl," it's always a win for animal shelters.
The show provides national exposure to the shelters across the country that provide the puppy athletes and the kittens that star in the halftime show, and introduces viewers to the different breeds and animals that need homes, animal workers say. Many shelters see bumps in visits from viewers who are inspired to adopt a pet.
"It raises awareness for our shelter and others that take part," said Madeline Bernstein, president and CEO of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles. "It shows dogs in a happy, playful, fun way, which makes people think, 'Gee, I could play with a dog too.' You hope it will also stimulate adoptions, and if not, at least a positive attitude toward dogs, rather than they are just hairy and smelly."
-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Silvey would fit perfectly curled up on a sofa.
The "Puppy Bowl," an annual two-hour TV special that mimics a football game with canine players, made its debut eight years ago on The Animal Planet. Dogs score touchdowns on a 10-by-19-foot gridiron carpet when they cross the goal line with a toy. There is a Most Valuable Pup award, a water bowl cam, a new lipstick cam (it's in the lips of the toys), slow-motion cameras, hedgehog referees, a puppy hot tub and a blimp with a crew of hamsters. Bios on each puppy player flash across the screen during close-ups of the action, letting viewers know how to find each animal for adoption.
Most of the puppies, however, are usually adopted by airtime since the show is filmed months ahead, said executive producer Melinda Toporoff, who is working on her fifth "Puppy Bowl." But Bernstein said the point is to show that animals just like the ones on the show can be found at any shelter at any time.
"A lot of people have come in during the last year and said, 'I want a dog just like Fumble,'" she said, referring to spcaLA's player entry in "Puppy Bowl VIII" who earned the game's Most Valuable Pup crown.
These pets at Almost Home are waiting for their forever homes
Almost Home, 725 S. 32nd St., will be open today during its regular hours, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The adoption fee is $50 for cats and $100 for dogs.
If the animal is not spayed or neutered, a refundable $50 deposit will also be charged. Every animal must be spayed or neutered before it leaves the shelter, or after it turns 6 months old.
"We encourage people to bring in every member of their family as well as all of their animals. We have a room where they can have one-on-one time with the animal they want to adopt," said Renee Drown, director of the animal shelter.
About 300 puppies and kittens have been featured on "Puppy Bowl" over the last decade, according to Petfinder.com, the country's largest online pet adoption database that helps cast the show's animal stars.
"Shelters and rescues are at capacity, and pet adoption is the responsible way to add to your family," said Sara Kent, who oversees outreach to the 14,000 shelters and rescues that Petfinder works with.
The inaugural "Puppy Bowl," which was promoted as an alternative to the Super Bowl, had 22 puppies and was watched by nearly 6 million viewers. Nearly 9 million tuned in last year and another 1.4 million watched via video streams, Toporoff said. "Puppy Bowl IX" will feature 84 animals, including 21 kittens from a New York shelter for the halftime show, and 63 puppies from 23 shelters.
Only four of the puppies have yet to find new homes, Toporoff said. They include Tyson, Daphne and Sacha - three pit bull mixes from the Pitter Patter Animal Rescue in Silver Lake, Wis., - and Jenny, a terrier mix from the Pitty Love Rescue in Rochester, N.Y.
"I don't know if there's any bigger forum for getting something out on adoption. We make sure the message gets out there. We make clear that these dogs need homes and that all animals have come to us during the adoption process," Toporoff said.
Fumble, last year's MVP winner, was adopted before the show aired. Michael Wright, of New York, said he found out about Fumble's participation toward the end of the adoption process. He planned to watch this year's show to catch any flashbacks of last year's MVP playing his heart out.
"I'm not really a fan of football," he said, adding that he has renamed Fumble to Toby. "He fits the name Toby. He is so cute. I like the name Fumble, but I pictured someone dropping the ball. He wasn't a Fumble," Wright said.
Each year, recruiting for the show is a logistical challenge for Kent and her crew of 80-plus. All breeds are considered because "we try to reflect what's out there in the adoption world. A lot of those breeds are mixed," Toporoff said.
Producers also were trying to find ways to incorporate older animals into the show, since shelters have more trouble finding homes for them than they do puppies and kittens, Toporoff said.
The "Puppy Bowl" airs from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. today in all time zones and will keep repeating until 3 a.m.