2017-09-20 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

“Empty the Shelters!” This sounds like The Man of La Mancha singing about an impossible dream but it isn’t when the BISSELL Pet Foundation organizes such an adoption event. On Sat., Sept. 16, their first-ever statewide EMPTY THE SHELTERS day took place throughout New York, and 562 shelter dogs and cats did go home.

Finding a loving, forever home for every pet is the ultimate goal of BISSELL Pet Foundation. In fact, their motto is “Until every pet has a home.” Sometimes furry friends need a little extra help, so the foundation created EMPTY THE SHELTERS free adoption days. BISSELL Pet Foundation reimburses participating shelters and rescues $200 for each dog adoption and $80 for each cat adoption. This way the new owners pay no fee or a greatly reduced fee to welcome a shelter pet into their family.

The foundation also provides leashes for the dogs, collars for the cats, wellness booklets and useful coupons including 30 days of free pet insurance.

On Sept. 16, 28 approved shelters and rescues throughout New York State participated in EMPTY THE SHELTERS. Long Island participants included Long Beach Humane Society, North Shore Animal League, Posh Pets Rescue in Long Beach and Last Hope in Wantagh.

(Note: EMPTY THE SHELTERS should not be confused with the annual “Clear the Shelters” event sponsored by NBC television stations across the US, asking shelters to waive their fees without reimbursement. Aug. 19 was the 2017 Clear the Shelters event with 900 humane groups joining in and placing 80,150 pets.)

Founded in 2011 by Cathy Bissell, BISSELL Pet Foundation is an extension of her long-standing love for animals and commitment to their welfare. The foundation is supported by BISSELL Homecare, Inc., a 140-year-old Grand Rapids-based floor care appliance brand in its fourth generation of family leadership. Cathy Bissell takes part in conference calls informing rescue workers how EMPTY THE SHELTERS works best.


Rudy, a three-legged Pit, goes home during Empty the Shelters. Rudy, a three-legged Pit, goes home during Empty the Shelters. BISSELL Pet Foundation is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization attempting to help reduce the number of animals in shelters and to support organizations dedicated to the humane care and treatment of animals through pet adoption, spay/ neuter programs, micro-chipping and foster care. The foundation has given millions of dollars to approved animal welfare groups for their programs. Currently the foundation has another initiative running until September 23rd encouraging humane organizations to make space for dogs and cats left homeless after Hurricanes Harvey/Irma by reimbursing these adoption fees too.

Nationwide, approximately 2.7 million pets are euthanized yearly because they are unable to find homes. Over the last 15 months BISSELL Pet Foundation sponsored six other EMPTY THE SHELTERS events in select areas like Maricopa County in Arizona, and towns in Michigan or N. California, successfully placing nearly 8,000 cats and dogs. Before planning last week’s NYS event, surveys found 96% of adopters reported pets remained in their new homes three months later; 54% of adopters were first-time adopters; 90% of all adopters planned to adopt again.


Porscha, a Malamute mix, finds a Husky heritage family. Porscha, a Malamute mix, finds a Husky heritage family. There’s a double impact. When you adopt a shelter pet, you improve and possibly save the life of two pets- your new furry best friend, plus the dog or cat that will fill the cage or kennel once occupied by your adopted pet. Therefore, BISSELL Pet Foundation asks EMPTY The SHELTERS participants to partner with other rescues to help fill the spaces once pets are adopted.

Last Hope placed 14 dogs during EMPTY THE SHELTERS on Saturday. Twelve new dogs arrived on Southern transports that night and the next afternoon. Hopefully Babylon Shelter dogs will be coming during the week. By Sunday, Philomena, a Dachshund/Beagle newbie had three adoption applications so kennel space makes a world of difference in a homeless dog’s life.

Last Hope got into the spirit of EMPTY THE SHELTERS by decorating the Wantagh Adoption Center in blue and green balloons and table cloths, the colors signifying the event. Extra volunteers were on hand to show pets, do reference and dog home checks, make cat deliveries and fill out paperwork. At the end of the day 19 pets (14 dogs and five cats) had gone home.

Two pairs of sibling kittens were adopted together. Puma and Kodiak look like tabby twins while brother Chevy and sister Nova will remain bonded. They had a blue and a pink dish waiting for them at their new home. Twinkle had been with Last Hope seven months after this tabby was abandoned outside a Patchogue apartment during a snowstorm. Now she lives in Lynbrook.

Of course, there were great dog stories. Diesel, tiniest of the 14 dogs, a stray Yorkie from Babylon Shelter went home with a young couple. Porscha, a Malamute mix from Hempstead Shelter, found a family and a pack. She’ll be living with another Malamute and a Shepherd. Tucker, a Beagle mix, was embraced by a family, devastated after losing their Mini Poodle to a sudden cancer. His new sister is a Toy Poodle with a rock star hairdo.

And then there was Rudy, last adoption of the day. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Rudy, a young Pit came into Hempstead Town Shelter before Christmas. He had an injured front leg with permanent nerve damage folded up like an accordion which pitched him forward when he walked. He is extremely friendly. Despite a huge volunteer following and his own Face Book page, Rudy found it hard to be noticed among 150 other Pits at the municipal shelter.

Rudy moved to Last Hope in the spring. He remained a volunteer favorite. A specialist recommended amputation of the front limb because of discomfort and balance problems. Generous donations to our “Root for Rudy” campaign paid for his amputation at the specialty hospital. Several homes fell through because Rudy tends to be enthusiastic when meeting other dogs. We were concerned a stumble could be misconstrued by a canine buddy.

The week leading up to EMPTY THE SHELTERS a young woman came to Last Hope and spied Rudy. She visited him several times, filled out an application (which was approved) and promised to be back Saturday with her husband and three kids. Rudy meshed with the family as if he’d always been theirs, and left Last Hope in a new bed in the back of the van with one of his little brothers holding his leash.

Later that day Rudy’s new Mom posted: “Rudy is the best, and we are all over the moon with excitement and happiness!” Those who know Rudy are so grateful to the BISSELL Pet Foundation for helping to “empty Rudy’s kennel.”

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