'Clear The Shelters' Aims To Find New Homes For Shelter Animals -- But Is Giving Pets Away For Free A Good Idea?

Thanks to a campaign spearheaded by NBC/Universal-owned television stations, more than 50 animal shelters across Texas, as well as dozens more across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, will be opening their doors this Saturday for the second annual Clear the Shelters event. Clear the Shelters started in Texas last year as a way to get people interested in shelter animals awaiting homes and to potentially wrangle up some new adopters. In order to do so, the shelters waive the adoption fees for the whole day.

In theory, Clear the Shelters sounds like a great idea -- shelter dogs and cats will find loving homes rather than having to live in cages in a shelter, and animal lovers who couldn't otherwise afford some of the astronomical adoption fees shelters charge will get to go home with a new puppy or kitten.

But is the idea behind Clear the Shelters really a good one?

In 2007, then-48-year-old Anthony Appolonia, of Aberdeen, New Jersey, confessed to torturing and killing 19 cats and kittens that he had be given after answering "free to a good home" ads in a local newspaper. Victor Amato, chief of police for Monmouth County SPCA, called it "the worst case of purposeful animal cruelty" he had seen in his 25 years in law enforcement, five of which were with the animal shelter.

"[Appolonia would] throw the cat, beat, punch and break its bones. He would let it live for a little while, in some cases a day, in tremendous pain, and then drown it."
Appolonia was convicted and sentenced to the maximum five years in prison for torturing and killing 19 cats who could have potentially found real homes had their previous owners brought them to a shelter, or asked for an adoption fee.

In 2012, Patricia Hervey of Texas was found to have killed hundreds of animals that she got by trolling "free to a good home" ads on Craigslist. She claimed to run an animal shelter, and would take money from pet owners as a "fee" for rehoming their beloved pets. Hervey didn't run a shelter though. Once she got the animals, free of charge, she would bring them to her home, shoot them in the head, and dump their bodies in a lake behind her house.

These are only two of the myriad tragic stories stemming from "free" adoptions. So, while those who are heading up the Clear the Shelters campaign obviously have their hearts in the right place, and sure, some of the animals adopted from the Clear the Shelters event will find their "fur-ever" homes, the sad truth is that many may not. Many may wind up being given, free of charge, to the Anthony Appolonias and Patricia Herveys of the world.

[Image Credit: FortWorthTexas.Gov/Clear The Shelters]