Shelter pups play under the big lights on Super Bowl Sunday at Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl.

By Carol Vinzant
Updated January 31, 2009 12:38 AM
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What does it take to corral 39 puppies in a miniature football stadium for a couple hours for Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl V? We caught up with the producers of the annual puppy party to see how it’s done.

Executive producer Melinda Toporoff tells PEOPLE Pets that they shoot the puppy-fest all in one day in the fall, at Animal Planet Stadium. Sure, it looks like a glamorous football stadium on TV, but it’s normally just a tiny tech center in Silver Spring, Maryland that is transformed for the day. “A very long day,” Toporoff says.

Production assistants manage the puppies like they’re little stars. “They don’t have crates,” Toporoff says. “They have fenced in areas where we put in a few puppies from one shelter together. We rotate them in and out.”

The innovation for this year’s big game is that all the puppies and the kittens in the half-time show are from local shelters found through Petfinder.com. In years past, they’ve cast puppies from breeders, but Toporoff says, “you basically learn that unfortunately there are lots of purebred dogs in shelters.” This year there will be some extra special viewers tuning in: the puppies and kittens you’ll see in the bowl have all been adopted and will be watching from their new family’s home.

How rigorous is the audition process for these cuties? “We’re pretty shallow,” Toporoff says. “If we look at a picture and go ‘awww,’ they’re in.”

Kick off is February 1 at 3pm ET/PT on Animal Planet. Puppy Bowl V re-airs throughout the day.