(Evansville, IN – December 1, 2017) The VHS is hosting an adopt-a-thon of epic proportions on Saturday & Sunday, December 16th & 17th. The goal is simple: to find homes for every adoptable animal in the building and “empty” the shelter. It is an event not to be missed.

For the third year, the Vanderburgh Humane Society will be hosting an “Empty the Shelter” event with 100% waived adoption fees on all shelter animals. This includes dogs, cats, and rabbits. (There will not be puppies available.) The event will kick off at 10:00 am on Saturday, December 16th. (This is a change from the previous 2 years, when the event was held on Friday & Saturday.) VHS will have extended adoption hours on both days, opening early at 10:00 am and closing late at 8:00 pm. All hands will be on deck for this event including all staff members and a host of volunteers.

Without this event, each VHS shelter animal would spend Christmas Eve in a cage or small room. They will receive a few minutes of extra treats and pets, but ultimately the staff must turn off the lights and leave for the night. The staff and volunteers’ dream is to see those animals instead spend Christmas snuggled in a warm bed with humans who love them. Each one of them deserves that.

The obvious concerns that many well-meaning individuals have are that people who cannot afford to pay an adoption fee, cannot afford to have a pet. One is inclined to believe that those who get “free” animals are much more likely to abuse them, abandon them, or return them to the shelter once the excitement wears off. The VHS and many other major animal welfare organizations have found that this is not at all the case.

While VHS realizes that many members of the public would be opposed to and perhaps even vehemently angered by an event like this, they would like to reassure the public that all normal adoption procedures will still be in place.

. All adopters must fill out an adoption application and provide a valid photo ID

  • VHS Adoption Counselors and/or volunteers help families to choose a pet that is an ideal match for their family based on ages and personalities of family members, living situations, financial situations, other pets in the home, and so on
  • Each adopter will sign a legal binding contract, as they always have, to care for the animal for its lifetime, provide it with veterinary care, and return it to VHS if they are ever unable to keep it
  • VHS has always and will continue to reserve the right to deny adoptions for any reason.
  • Those who have used our emergency food pantry within the past year are not permitted to adopt.

The fact of the matter is, VHS can never guarantee with 100% certainty that every animal is entering a permanent, loving home. Even if each animal cost 1 million dollars to adopt, someone who could afford that fee is still perfectly capable of abusing that animal. All any animal welfare group can do is trust the internal controls they have in place, have conversations with adopters in order to make good matches, and have faith in the people that they are entrusting with their dear shelter pets’ lives. Events like these do not so much attract the “bottom of the barrel” adopters who cannot afford animals, but the promotion alone attracts families who simply may not have known where VHS was or who may have been considering adoption at other places.

In the 2 years since this event began, the VHS has not seen an increase in returns from this event specifically. Animals who are going to be returned, are going to be returned… no matter the adoption fee paid. If someone truly cares about getting their animal basic veterinary care, they will do so… no matter their income. There is no way to distinguish “good” pet owners from “bad” ones based on adoption fees alone.

Anyone age 18+ can adopt from the Vanderburgh Humane Society, including those who do not live in Vanderburgh County. If a person can make the trip to the facility and transport the animal back home with them, they can adopt no matter where they live. VHS has no residency requirements for adoption!

As of December 1st at 10:30 am, VHS has nearly 200 cats, 66 dogs, and 19 rabbits in their care. They regularly lose money on each adoption (an average of $100 per animal). An event like this will cost the shelter well over $20,000 in testing, vaccinations, spay/neuter surgeries, microchips, staff time, food, and lost adoption fees. Thanks to a generous sponsor, the Petco Foundation, a portion of the expenses are covered but not all. The current focus is to seek business or individual sponsors to underwrite costs. Ultimately, VHS’ goal is to find homes for every animal in their care. But they must also keep the doors open, so that they can continue to help more homeless animals long after the ones they have are gone. They cannot do events like these without financial support from the community.

The VHS implores those who cannot adopt, to sponsor an adoption instead. $100 pays for an adoption fee for onedog or up to three cats. Those who wish to help us continue to save more lives can visit www.vhslifesaver.org to make an easy, secure tax-deductible donation.

The VHS plans to transfer in dogs from Evansville Animal Care & Control, Another Chance for Animals, Warrick County Animal Control, and Crittenden County Animal Shelter (KY) (with more agencies pending) to help ease the burden of overcrowding across the region.

The Happy Tails Resale Shop will also be open 8:30 am – 3:00 pm on Saturday, December 16th and additional hours, 10:00 am – 3:00 pm on Sunday, December 17th. The public is encouraged to bring some extra money to shop and find some great deals! Cash, Visa, MasterCard, and Discover accepted.

There will be no Low-Cost Vaccine Clinic or Cardio for Canines on Saturday, December 16th.

An FAQ sheet with information on the adoption process for this event can be found here:


The VHS encourages the public that if they see an animal up for adoption that they like right now, not to wait until this event. No animals will be held for any reason before or during Empty the Shelter. Those who wish to adopt ahead of time and pay regular adoption fees will have a much larger selection and avoid the large crowds. In 2015 and 2016, more than 400 people attended.

To arrange a live remote or photo opportunity at Empty the Shelter, contact Amanda or Kendall at the information above.