30 adoptable pets get ‘courtside’ seats at NBA playoff game

On Tuesday, the NBA scored a lot of points with fans of animal rescue.

During Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Denver Nuggets, the broadcast cut to 28 dogs and two kittens and their fosters filling virtual courtside seats, with an announcement that they were all “100% adoptable and 100% adorable” and a link to learn more about adopting them.

The pets are being fostered by families around the country for Best Friends Animal Society and the nonprofit’s rescue partners.

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Valerie Dorian, chief development officer for Best Friends, a national animal welfare organization, said that as a result, a 4-pound Chihuahua named Jolene has already been adopted from Lexington Humane Society in Kentucky.

“Jolene loves squeaky toys and she loves other dogs,” she told TODAY. “She’s in a family that has a few other small dogs, so she is in the perfect home for her. We’re super excited for Jolene.”

Jolene joins her new family.
Jolene joins her new family.

Three dogs from Mutts of the Midway in Chicago already have interested adopters as well. A dog named Daisy May and her puppies made an appearance during the game and will be available for adoption in a few weeks.

A dog and her puppies
A dog and her puppies

It’s the first time Best Friends has showcased adoptable dogs during an NBA game. Dorian said it was a fun way not only to help get 30 pets adopted but to raise awareness about pet adoption and the need for people to temporarily foster dogs and cats until they find forever homes.

When the coronavirus pandemic forced many shelters to close their doors to the public, people across America stepped up to foster pets in their homes. But with continued economic uncertainty, she said there’s still a need for people to foster and adopt.

An alert dog watched a laptop screen.
An alert dog watched a laptop screen.

“We are concerned and we want to make sure that people are thinking about the animals and how they can help,” she said. “Now is a great time to have a pet in your home as people are working at home, to have a buddy to watch an NBA game with, or just to be your companion in life and everything that you do.”

Participating organizations included the Best Friends shelters in Los Angeles and Houston, as well as Mutts of the Midway in Chicago; Lexington Humane Society in Lexington, Kentucky; Muddy Paws Rescue in New York City; NorCal Boxer Rescue in Davis, California; Louie’s Legacy Animal Rescue in New York City; One Tail at a Time in Chicago; Lucky Dog Animal Rescue in Arlington, Virginia; and Angel City Pit Bulls in Los Angeles.

A pit bull sits near a TV and basketball.
A pit bull sits near a TV and basketball.

Dorian said that including pit bulls helped underscore that they can make great pets — which was particularly poignant since the Nuggets represent Denver, where voters will decide in November whether to repeal the city’s 30-year ban on pit bulls.

Many of the pets were large dogs, which typically have a harder time getting adopted than small ones. Two kittens also joined in, since they face challenges as well: They need fosters willing to bottle-feed them and keep them warm until they are 8 weeks old and ready for adoption.

Los Angeles resident Samantha Bell is fostering a 4-week-old kitten for Best Friends LA and was delighted to help Ant-Man wave at fans during the game.

“It was so much fun,” she told TODAY. “There were all these huge dogs as you looked on the screen and then there’s this little tiny kitten waving on there.”

Ant-Man is lucky to be alive. An elderly woman found the kitten in her garden when he was just a day old — the umbilical cord was still attached — and brought him to Best Friends LA because he was cold and covered in ants that were eating him. The rescue put him in an incubator and administered oxygen, and he pulled through.

Bell bottle-fed him every two hours for weeks, ever since he was 8 days old. Now he weighs almost a pound, and she’s planning to switch him from a bottle to eating more solid food this weekend.

“Ant-Man was cold and lifeless and he made it,” she said. “Now he’s running around my living room. He’s a little superhero.”

She’s fostered cats and kittens for nearly a decade to help keep them in homes instead of cages. It gives her joy and a sense of purpose.

“I’m literally keeping this little guy alive,” she said. “And when you bring a kitten home to foster, you’re opening up a cage at a shelter for another cat to be saved.”

A tiny kitten sleeps in a huge dog bed.
A tiny kitten sleeps in a huge dog bed.

Though the Lakers fan is disappointed that her team lost the game, she was tickled that Michelob Ultra, which partnered with Best Friends for the virtual NBA appearance, delivered free beer to every foster during the game. Bell hopes other basketball fans will look into fostering pets thanks to the unusual event.

“Even though the Lakers lost, the pets won,” she said. “Sports and animal rescue don’t usually go hand in hand, so I just think it’s a great way to bring a whole new audience into animal rescue. I hope it gets us a bunch of new fosters and a bunch of new homes for these sweet animals.”

To check out the featured pets and learn how to adopt them, visit: BestFriends.org/courtside.

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