---- — 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.
The “Puppy Bowl,” an annual two-hour TV special that mimics a football game with canine players, made its debut eight years ago on Animal Planet, a cable channel. 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.”
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.
“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.
The “Puppy Bowl” airs on Feb. 3 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in all time zones and will keep repeating until 3 a.m. The Super Bowl starts at 6:30 p.m. ET and 3:30 p.m. PT.