Shelter dogs can make people feel thrills, chills, amazement, excitement and some of the greatest joys on Earth.
Just ask the animal lovers who have orchestrated a massive dog rescue event on Nov. 8 at the Big Apple Circus at Lincoln Center in New York City. At the event, more than 40 adoptable dogs will be introduced and celebrated under the circus big top. They’ll even be serenaded by a Disney princess — actor Patti Murin, who starred as Anna in the Broadway production of “Frozen.”
“This is the brightest light to shine on shelter dogs who have been pushed to the wayside,” said animal advocate and TV personality Jill Rappaport, creator of the Rappaport to the Rescue podcast and host of the event.
Rappaport teamed up with Big Apple Circus CEO Marty LaSalle to organize the adoption event after seeing how economic woes are prompting some people to surrender their pets to shelters.
Shelter animals got adopted at record numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic, but inflation, skyrocketing housing costs and a shortage of pet-friendly rentals are becoming increasingly challenging for many families. In New York City, for example, Animal Care Centers of NYC said it saw a 38% increase in owners surrendering dogs to its open-admission shelters earlier this year.
“Bills are mounting up and people can’t handle it. Animals that had been given a second chance are now back in the cages,” Rappaport said. “This event could not come at a more important time.”
LaSalle, a former circus performer who specialized in juggling and doing acrobatic feats with his twin brother, took over as chief executive officer of the Big Apple Circus in July. He said that in addition to spotlighting the pressures being faced by many animal shelters, he hopes the Nov. 8 event will help change people’s perceptions about the modern-day treatment of circus animals.
“There has been no use of exotic animals in decades at the Big Apple Circus,” LaSalle told TODAY. “We want to introduce kids and families to animals that do tricks in ways that are very animal welfare-focused. These animals are treated very well — they’re truly part of the family.”
Murin of “Frozen” fame said she jumped at the opportunity to sing to shelter dogs at the adoption event. Murin and her husband, Colin Donnell — who starred on NBC’s “Chicago Med,” where Murin also had a recurring role — have two former shelter dogs of their own: Milo and Petey.
Milo was transported from the South to the New York area as part of an elaborate rescue operation. Petey started out as one of Murin and Donnell’s foster dogs — but he became a “foster fail” when they fell in love with him and decided to adopt him.
Years after adopting Milo and Petey, Murin and Donnell welcomed a baby girl named Cecily, who is now 2. She adores her furry siblings.
“They’re so good with Cecily, and in return, she’s now growing up with dogs and she knows how to treat them,” said Murin, who announced in late October that she’s expecting another baby girl. “Cecily knows how to play with them and how to be gentle with them. It’s great!”
At the dog adoption event, Murin is planning to sing a song about the power of a dog’s love: “Times Like This” from the musical “Lucky Stiff.” The lyrics include these lines:
A friendly face, the kind of face
That melts you with a grin
The kind of eyes that welcome you
The minute you walk in
A tender glance you simply can’t refuse
At times like this a girl could use
Other performers, including Emmylou Harris, are showing their support for the Big Apple Circus event.
The adoption event is scheduled for 4-6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 8, at the Big Apple Circus Big Top at Damrosch Park, which is in Lincoln Center at the corner of Amsterdam Avenue and West 62nd Street in New York City. Admission is free, as are refreshments for people who attend the show. Eight different shelters and foster-based rescue organizations will be participating in the event. Here are some of the dogs who will be available for adoption there:
Long Island Bulldog Rescue
Long Island Bulldog Rescue will be bringing six adoptable bulldogs to the event, including this guy, who loves dogs, kids, sunshine and food:
"Getting Lincoln Center and the Big Apple Circus to welcome us and numerous other groups in the area is such a treat," said Lisa Bonanno-Spence, director of development for SPCA Westchester. The shelter will be bringing five dogs to the event, including these cuties:
Yorkie911 Rescue in North Babylon, New York, focuses on rescuing and finding good homes for small breed dogs. The group will be bringing six dogs to the event, including:
Bideawee, one of the oldest no-kill animal shelters in the country, will be bringing five dogs to the event, including this one-eyed wonder:
Little Shelter Animal Rescue & Adoption Center
Little Shelter is a nonprofit, no-kill shelter in Huntington, Long Island. It will be bringing five dogs to the event, including Winnie:
The Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation
The Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation is an open-admission, no-kill shelter that will be bringing three dogs to the event, including Summit:
Nassau County SPCA
The Nassau County SPCA focuses on rescuing and protecting animals from abuse and neglect. The organization will be bringing three dogs to the event, including:
NYC Second Chance Rescue
NYC Second Chance Rescue is focused on rescuing and rehabilitating critically injured and neglected animals. The group will be bringing five dogs to the event, including Pumpkin and Spice, a bonded pair currently being fostered by Jill Rappaport: