LAND O'LAKES — Pasco County's animal shelter had a banner day Saturday when it found homes for 79 dogs and cats during an "Empty the Shelter" event just before Christmas.
The event featured free adoptions for the holidays (dogs normally cost $70, and cats are $40). Families could also take a portrait with their new pet alongside Santa and Mrs. Claus.
People began lining up outside the adoption center in Land O'Lakes on Saturday morning, even though the event didn't begin until noon. The shelter was open until 10 p.m. to accommodate people looking for a new pet.
"I think the citizens were happy," said Judy Gregory, the shelter's volunteer coordinator. "The shelter staff was beaming, and the volunteers had a great time. It exceeded our expectations."
The shelter was almost emptied. After everybody left on Saturday, there were only two adoption-ready cats and one dog. The rest of the shelter's animals were either on hold, not ready for adoption or too sick.
"We adopted out almost everybody that was up for adoption," Gregory said.
One concern about offering free adoptions is that someone might take multiple animals and not give them enough care. Gregory said that didn't happen. One person took home two cats, and another took home a dog and a cat.
"We didn't have people coming in droves asking for more than one animal," she said.
Another fear is that families might make an impulse adoption just before Christmas and end up returning their new pet to the shelter.
But Gregory said that is a concern with any adoption. "We don't expect to have any higher percentage of returns than we usually do," she said.
Lee Logan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6236.