Major League Sports Teams That Support Pet Adoption · The Wildest

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These Major League Teams Give Their All for Animal Advocacy

To kick off the 2024 baseball season, we honor some big players in the animal-rescue game.

by Sean Zucker
March 28, 2024
JT Brubaker from the Pittsburgh Pirates and Bucco the dog.
Photo Courtesy of @piratespup.

When thinking of American professional sports, rarely does animal advocacy come to mind. Instead, one of two images tends to appear. There’s either the standard visual of yoked-up millionaires competing for supremacy in their perspective league or an all-too-familiar sight of less-wealthy individuals, let’s say, passionately encouraging these strangers from their couch. Despite any preconceived notions about jocks or drunken fanatics, American sports do a lot of good for animal rescues and shelters.

The MLB’s contributions to animal rescue

Now it’s officially spring, which means it’s time to turn our attention to America’s favorite pastime (and no, that is not tracking various members of the British royal family’s whereabouts). Today is Major League Baseball’s Opening Day, and thus, the start of baseball season. That means peanuts and cracker jacks and your annual excuse to watch A League of Their Own.

On this Opening Day for Major League Baseball (MLB), I should acknowledge that American professional baseball has also produced its share of animal advocates. Three-time Cy Young Award winner and two-time World Series champ Max Scherzer is a long-time adoption supporter with four rescue dogs and two cats in his family at the moment. He’s appeared in several Humane Rescue Alliance PSAs to promote animal welfare and previously covered the adoption fees for pets enduring the longest stays in the org’s care.

While Scherzer’s stint in New York was short-lived, a former teammate is picking up the slack, at least off of the field. Recently, The Mets’ Pete Alonso and his foundation pledged to donate $1,000 to animal rescues for every home run he hits this season. It’s a move that Alonso has stated is largely inspired by hopes of getting dogs out of kill shelters and into loving homes. 

Thankfully, it appears these individual pro-rescue attitudes have trickled up to front offices, as teams are beginning to install their own advocacy initiatives. Below are MLB teams — and professional football, hockey, and basketball teams, because we can’t give baseball players all the credit — who work hard to help animals find loving homes.


New York Mets

New York’s, er, less successful MLB team is promoting pet adoption on a few fronts. First, the team partnered with America’s VetDogs to support an in-training service dog that’ll be placed with either a disabled veteran or first responder. The program was initiated by the Amazin’ Mets Foundation, the team’s wide-reaching charitable foundation. Additionally, last season, the Mets hosted a Bark At The Park at Citi Field. This event helped raise funds for North Shore Animal League America, the largest no-kill animal rescue and adoption organization in the world according to its site.

Cincinnati Reds

Last season, the Reds hosted a quartet of Bark In The Park games that supported the SPCA of Cincinnati. Before each event, adoptable dogs were available outside the gates. Fans were also encouraged to bring their pups in the stadium for the game. 

Detroit Tigers

Similarly, Detroit is rolling out its rendition of Bark in the Park for four games this season. Depending on the night, pet parents in attendance will be gifted a Tigers pet bandana, poop bag holder, food mat, or rope toy. Most importantly, however, proceeds will go to Michigan Humane

Pittsburgh Pirates

Last year, the Pirates partnered with Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, an org that rescues and trains service dogs before connecting them with veterans or others dealing with disabilities. The team trained their dog, Bucco, throughout the season and in September, he found his forever home. Pittsburgh also hosted nine Pup Nights games last season, during which fans could bring their dogs to the stadium. While these games didn’t directly benefit shelters, seeing a couple of Westies decked out in Pirates jerseys should encourage locals to adopt and become pet parents, in my opinion. 

Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks seemingly can’t wait to show their support for pet adoption; they’re hosting a fundraising event barely a month into the season. On April 24, the National League Champions will be taking on The Chicago Cubs in a dog-friendly game at Chase Field.

For this Bark at the Park event, the team invites fans to not only bring their dogs to the game but also participate in a pregame puppy parade. A portion of all ticket sales will be donated to Joybound, a California-based animal rescue, and its Shelter-to-Service program. 

The NFL 

Los Angeles Chargers

The 2023-2024 season certainly didn’t go as planned for Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers, ultimately finishing in last place of their division and missing the playoffs. While this inspired a recent coaching change due to their unpredictable play, the team maintained some consistency off the field. For the third straight season, The LA Chargers sponsored a trainee service dog.

This year, they partnered with Paws for Life K9 Rescue, an organization that connects service dogs from shelters with military vets and first responders. Along with Lazy Dog Restaurant, the team provided training and resources for their “Charger Pup” River to become a service dog. At the end of the season, River found his forever home with a veteran. The three-year-old Golden Retriever was brought to LA Animal Services’ East Valley Animal Shelter as a stray and was named River after Philip Rivers, who is probably the franchise’s all-time greatest quarterback and certainly its most fertile.

“We couldn’t be more excited to welcome the Paws for Life K9 Rescue team to the Chargers family and look forward to sharing River’s journey with our fans as she prepares to support a special veteran in the same way that they have supported our country,” Alexis Spanos Ruhl, Chargers co-owner said in a statement before the season. She also acts as special advisor to the Chargers Impact Fund, a charitable program that helped raise over $100,000 for LA Animal Services’ East Valley Animal Shelter and its facilities in 2022. 

Kansas City Chiefs

While tight end Travis Kelce ’s 2023-2024 season will be remembered “all too well” by Swifties everywhere there’s more to be excited about if you’re a Chiefs fan. And no, I’m not talking about them winning another Super Bowl. Beyond bringing home the Lombardi Trophy yet again to possibly kickstart a dynasty, Kansas City unveiled its Kingdom Pet Pack this past offseason as an extension of its Kingdom Crew.

The program aims to connect Chiefs loving pet parents while hosting or directing them toward pet-friendly events in the area. Following each win of the season, Chiefs defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi sponsored a specific shelter pet by paying all the animal’s fees to encourage their adoption.  

Detroit Lions

Dan Campbell, former head coach for the Lions, is essentially the walking embodiment of a dog mentality so it’s only natural that the team’s fans would produce a strong pet community. This past season, Detroit launched The Pride Unleashed to connect Lions-loving pet parents.

“This community will bring together Lions fans who share a passion for their pups and their team. We know pets are part of the family and now they can be a part of the fan experience as well,” and Emily Griffin, senior vice president of marketing and brand for the Lions, said in a statement. As part of the program, the team held an adoption event at its practice facility in August featuring pups from local shelters including Bottle Babies Rescue, Friends of Detroit Animal Care and Control, and Bark Nation. All adoption costs were covered.

Houston Texans

After 21 years of irrelevance, the NFL’s youngest team finally has a couple of reasons to support its own existence. CJ Stroud looks like a legit franchise QB and, more importantly, Houston added a team dog to its roster this season. This Lab mix named Blitz received service dog training throughout 2023-2024 campaign which ended in a surprise run to the playoffs.

The program comes in collaboration with America’s VetDogs, an organization that helps train and connect service dogs with vets and first responders with disabilities. In fact, 2022’s “Texans Pup” competed in and won MVP (Most Valuable Pup) at the Puppy Bowl before finding his forever home with a retired U.S. Army sergeant major.

Washington Commanders

Throughout my lifetime, Washington, D.C.’s NFL team has been an embarrassment on and off the field. But since the league (finally) ousted former owner and current terrible person Dan Snyder, the organization has been trying to make amendments. While this has yet to translate to on-the-field success, Washington has at least been making better decisions for its community. The latest came in the form of an adorable English Yellow Lab puppy named Goldie, the Commanders’ new team dog.

The Commanders partnered with K9s For Warriors to adopt Goldie, who is an in-training service dog. Most of this organization’s dogs come from rescues and they work to combat PTSD, traumatic brain injury, or military sexual trauma.

“After a thorough vetting process, our coaching staff was impressed with Goldie’s tenacity and speed on the grass. She leaves it all on the field, whether she’s fetching a tennis ball or treat. Goldie will bring paw-sitive energy and deep fetch expertise to our lineup and I am excited to welcome her to the team,” Head Coach Ron Rivera said in a statement. Just like the Chargers and Texans’ team dogs, Goldie was placed with a military veteran at the end of the season. 


Chicago Blackhawks

After Blackhawks center Colin Blackwell and his wife spent time fostering pups for the Determined to Rise Animal Foundation, they urged his team to help the organization. In response, Chicago partnered with the group and began posting adoptable dogs to its Instagram page. Players met with the pups during a practice session and handed out team-inspired names to encourage fans to adopt. Right winger Reese Johnson even ended up adopting one with his girlfriend. 

Seattle Kraken

I’ve always been more of a firefighter calendar guy myself, but the Kraken have me reconsidering tradition. That’s because the NHL’s newest franchise dropped a 2023-2024 specialty calendar featuring players with adoptable rescue pups from Dog Gone Seattle. Many of the months were festively themed, while others simply embraced the ice, but each included a dog in need of a forever home. Net proceeds went toward Dog Gone Seattle and One Roof Foundation, the Kraken’s charity focused on halting climate change and its environmental impacts.

Minnesota Wild

Before this season, the Minnesota Wild announced a four-month-old Golden Retriever mix named Hatty as the team’s official rescue dog. She’s being fostered by the team from Coco’s Heart Dog Rescue, based out of nearby Somerset, Wisconsin. The Wild is sponsoring her training to become a service dog. At the end of the season, Hatty will be paired with a veteran or first responder in need of a service dog at no cost.

Pittsburgh Penguins

A storied franchise like the Pittsburgh Penguins couldn’t let themselves be outdone by the Kraken, who are only playing in their third season. At a minimum, it’d be disrespectful to Sidney Crosby and his somehow still unfolding legacy. That’s why they released the  Penguins and Paws calendar featuring Pittsburgh players and adoptable dogs. Plus, all proceeds go directly toward the Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh.


Indiana Pacers

Tyrese Haliburton seems to have found his forever home with The Indiana Pacers after signing a five-year $260-million maximum contract extension over the summer, so it’s only natural that it was preceded by the organization’s pet advocacy. Last season, the team put on a puppy race during halftime of one of their games featuring nine adoptable rescue dogs. While the race itself didn’t exactly go as planned, all nine pups were quickly adopted by the end of the matchup.  

Los Angeles Lakers

There may be no athlete more tied to one city than Lebron James to Cleveland, Ohio. So, when the local hero, who brought the city its first championship, reached the Conference Finals with his new team last season, Cleveland still showed its support. Humane Society of Summit County in Akron, James’s hometown, decided that for every assist he recorded in game one of the series, they’d waive the adoption fees for a rescue cat or dog.

After he tallied nine assists, the same number of animals were shortly adopted. Many of them have names inspired by King James, including “Lebron,” “James,” and “The Chosen,” a reference to his early moniker as “The Chosen One.” To be clear, the Lakers didn’t directly encourage pet adoption, but their play certainly did, so I’ll count it. And what better way to honor Lebron James than giving his team the benefit of an iffy call?

Sean Zucker

Sean Zucker

Sean Zucker is a writer whose work has been featured in Points In Case, The Daily Drunk, Posty, and WellWell. He has an adopted Pit Bull named Banshee whose work has been featured on the kitchen floor and whose behavioral issues rival his own.

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