Young-Williams Animal Center set new records in 2012 for the number of pets adopted, according to Director of Outreach Amy Johnston.
The surge of interest in new pets close to the holidays meant that many of the dog and cat kennels remained empty this weekend.
They nearly met their goal of emptying the shelter by Christmas Eve, but as it turned out a few dogs and cats wanted to hang around for Santa.
With the help of Knoxville area families, Johnston says the center's adoption rate for 2012 increased 9% over 2011.
This year they took in nearly 15,000 animals, about 700 less than 2011.
About 4,586 of them were adopted out, which is more than 1,200 more than last year.
"We've had an absolutely incredible year," says Johnston. "We have taken in less animals and we're adopting out more animals."
Johnston attributes a spay and neuter campaign started by the center about 5 years ago as helping to diminish intake.
She says in the past three years, they've seen a 42% drop in the number of puppies coming in to the shelter.
She believes more people fixing their pets, coupled with more community outreach resulted in the positive numbers.
"People are becoming more aware, and people are becoming more open to adopting," says Johnston.
Young-Williams never turns away an animal, including those who are sick or display behavioral issues.
That means they do have to euthanize.
But Johnston says those numbers are heading in a positive direction too.
In 2011 the shelter euthanized 62% of the animals they took in.
In 2012 it dropped 12% to 50%.
"You see less tears in this building," said Johnston, choking back her own.
Johnston says that's still higher than they'd like, but a dramatic improvement that they hope to improve upon in 2013.