02/01/2013 10:00 pm ET

Puppy Bowl IX: 2013 Puppy Bowl Referee Talks Benefits Of Adoption (VIDEO)

Canine members of the 2013 Puppy Bowl starting lineup, along with Puppy Bowl referee Dan Schachner joined HuffPost Live's Ricky Camilleri in studio on Wednesday to preview the upcoming Puppy Bowl IX, set to air on Animal Planet this Sunday, Feb. 3, at 3 p.m. Eastern and Pacific.

While cute and entertaining, the Puppy Bowl also serves a greater purpose: each of the dogs featured on the program is available for adoption.

"This year we gathered 63 puppies from around the country -- they're all from rescue centers and shelters," Schachner told HuffPost Live. "They're all available for adoption at the time that we start taping Puppy Bowl. They all get adopted. People just scoop them up. And what we're always trying to do with Puppy Bowl every single year is increase adoption awareness."

Over the years, viewership for the annual event has continued to grow, and that's good news for the Puppy Bowl mission. From HuffPost DC Assistant Editor Brandon Wetherbee:

The Puppy Bowl was watched by 10 million people in 2012. Ten million people. Ten million people watched puppies play on a 'football field' over five airings. This is great. What makes it great, besides obtaining a feeling of joy and wonder and hope, is that the puppies are all from shelters. A handful of the 10 million viewers ended up adopting the canine athletes.

When the 2013 Puppy Bowl lineup was announced I was once again filled with joy and wonder and hope. Even more animals would find a loving home. I checked the lineup and was happy to see the animals were all up for adoption. Four days before Puppy Bowl IX, all but four of the animals have been adopted.

What's more, this year's Puppy Bowl will include hedgehog cheerleaders, because the only thing more adorable than puppies playing football is those puppies being cheered on by hedgehogs.

Watch the Full Puppy Bowl Segment on HuffPost Live.