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.”
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.
Meet the 2013 Puppy Bowl players
We even took a guess and what positions each of the dogs would play.
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.
The inaugural “Puppy Bowl,” which was promoted as an alternative to the Super Bowl 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.
Bernstein said they try to find rambunctious, energetic puppies to enter in the bowl though even if a dog falls asleep on its way to the end zone, it can be funny. Puppies chosen for the show have to be between 10 and 15 weeks old, healthy and sturdy enough to be on the field with playmates. 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 often have trouble finding homes for them, Toporoff said.
The “Puppy Bowl” airs Sunday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.