WTOP marks 10 years of Pet of the Week partnership — hundreds of spotlighted dogs adopted

Finding a forever home can be life-changing for both animal and human. This holiday we're celebrating a special milestone and checking in with some of WTOP's Pets of the Week. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

Hundreds of pets have moved out of a D.C. shelter and into loving homes over the course of WTOP’s 10-year partnership with the Humane Rescue Alliance on the “Pet of the Week” spotlight.

This year marked the 10th anniversary of the weekly feature on WTOP, through which an adoptable pet is spotlighted online and on air.

“We’re just very grateful to be a part of the Monday morning commute and to be able to reach a wider audience of people and just spread how amazing our dogs are with everyone who listens to WTOP,” said Samantha Miller, acting communications director for the Humane Rescue Alliance.

WTOP anchor Mark Lewis hosts the segment on Monday mornings. Over the years, he said listeners have called-in wanting to adopt a pet who they heard about on air, but haven’t yet seen a photo of.

“I think that speaks to not only the impact of radio, but also to the kindness and the generosity of our listeners wanting to open up their homes to a new pet,” Lewis said.

The impact of the weekly feature has been particularly significant in 2023, as Miller said that shelters returned to pre-pandemic intake rates, leaving many overcrowded and “overwhelmed.”

Shelter Animals Count, a national database of shelter statistics, estimates that the U.S. shelter population grew by nearly a quarter-million animals in 2023, The Associated Press reported.

Hard to believe it's been 10 years – helping to find forever homes for adorable, adoptable dogs. We're celebrating a special milestone for WTOP, with our Monday morning Pet of the Week feature. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

“On any given day this summer, we were caring for 100 more animals than we did during summer 2022,” Miller said. “So any way we can spread the word about the amazing animals we have and find them loving homes is very much appreciated.”

At one point this year, the alliance had more than 700 animals in its care, she said.

“What’s really great for us is that it allows us to reach a different audience from the people that we interact with on a daily basis,” Miller said.

Included in that new audience is WTOP’s staff, several of whom couldn’t resist adopting featured pets over the years.

The partnership has evolved over time. The Humane Rescue Alliance used to bring the pets in person to WTOP’s Glass Enclosed Nerve Center.

“It was so exciting to see everyone kind of run over to greet the dog and that was a lot of fun,” Miller said.

Years ago, plans changed so that the pets wouldn’t come in person anymore — much to the disappointment of some WTOP staffers. But Miller said keeping the weekly feature remote allows the alliance to have more flexibility in which pets were featured.

“We can feature dogs who are in foster homes, and oftentimes dogs who are in foster homes are dogs who have been looking for their new homes for the longest,” Miller said.

The weekly feature has been “gratifying” for Lewis, he said.

“There is so much serious news and it’s nice to be able to pause for a second and do something that is engaging with the community and that’s also changing lives,” Lewis said.

Jessica Kronzer

Jessica Kronzer graduated from James Madison University in May 2021 after studying media and politics. She enjoys covering politics, advocacy and compelling human-interest stories.

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