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Bucs punter Bradley Pinion  and his wife, launched their "Punts for Pups" program in partnership with the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center where they'll sponsor a dog for every punt he kicks within the 20-yard line. Monica Herndon  |  Tampa Bay Times

Bucs punter Bradley Pinion and his wife, launched their "Punts for Pups" program in partnership with the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center where they'll sponsor a dog for every punt he kicks within the 20-yard line. Monica Herndon | Tampa Bay Times

TAMPA, Fla. - It's his first season with the Bucs but Bradley Pinion is already looking for ways to connect with the community.

He saw Buffalo Bills kicker, Stephen Hauschka and his wife post on social media their new "Hauschpups" program, where they help dogs at a local shelter get adopted by paying their adoption fees for every field goal Hauschka makes at the Bills' New Era Field.

And then Pinion heard about the massive influx of more than 350 dogs that flooded the Hillsborough Pet Resource Center. That confirmed his instincts to focus on pets.

"We're huge dog people," he said, "and we knew they were overwhelmed with dogs so we figured it would be something we could do in the community."

For the Pinions, adopting pets hits home.

They own three dogs - Nala, Nellie and Novie - that they brought to Tampa Bay from their days together at Clemson University. They adopted two of them from a local shelter in South Carolina.

On Monday Pinion and his wife, Kaeleigh, announced their new "Punts for Pups" program. They will sponsor a dog and cover the adoption fees every time he lands a punt inside the 20-yard line.

In his four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, Pinion averaged 28 punts inside the 20, and so far with the Bucs, he has pinned 12 punts inside the 20.

The couple took action right away on Monday after Sunday's win against the Cardinals where Pinion kicked two punts inside the 20-yard line and sponsored two dogs, Lily, an 8-year old white Labrador retriever boxer mix, and Buck, a two-year-old, American Staffordshire terrier mix.

And the couple is considering backdating his punts from previous games to sponsor more dogs for the remainder of the season.

As part of the deal, any family that adopts one of the Pinion's sponsored pups will receive a free goodie bag donated from pet supply store Modern Paws with a collar, leash, treats and a Buccaneers identification tag.

The Pinions will visit the shelter every Monday after Sunday games when the shelter is closed and when the Bucs have a light day to pick out the dogs, play with them, and then pay for their adoption fees.

But they're selective in which dogs they choose.

Pinion said they intentionally go for the dogs that aren't always the most "eye-appealing" but just need a little tender love and care.

"Shelters are one of the most stressful places for dogs," he said.

"They might have had not come from the best situation and they may not be the cutest dog or the one that many people want, but it's the ones that need it the most."

The partnership came unexpectedly for the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center, but it's a huge win-win for the shelter and the dogs, according to its director, Scott Trebatoski.

"I honestly cannot say how happy I am because opportunities are great for a community that we have not had before," he said.

"He understands the needs of shelters. He's lived in communities that have had really amazing shelters, and with him being a spokesperson, I just see a lot of the harder to save larger dogs that used to sit waiting for an adopter being adopted faster."

Visit the Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.) at www.tampabay.com

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