Even if Madonna doesn't somehow manage to phone in a performance during this year's Super Bowl halftime show, you're better off both mentally and visually changing channel and tuning into Animal Planet's 8th annual Puppy Bowl


Yes, the Puppy Bowl - that serotonin-injecting display of ridiculousness that received "awwwws.." from more than 9.2 million viewers last year. Started in 2005, it features several hours of shelter pups playing with various football-related items while gerbils film from blimps, chickens and roosters cheer from the sidelines, and kittens put on a wild halftime show. 


“When Animal Planet first called and told me that I would be working with 58 puppies, 20 cats, five pigs and one bird, I thought this would be the easiest gig of my career,” Dan Schachner, this year's "ref", said in a statement. “But after calling my first “terrier touchdown,” I can see why this is the toughest competition in sports today.”


New this year will the addition of piglets on the sideline - as well as a Twitter-tweeting bird to provide social media commentary. From the release: 


All of the animals featured in Puppy Bowl VIII come from rescues and shelters across the United States. This year’s starting lineup includes puppies from spcaLA (California), All Star Pet Rescue (New Jersey), Go Boxer Rescue (Ohio), Pet Matchmaker Rescue (Pennsylvania), Furever Dachshund Rescue (Rhode Island) and Huts for Mutts Dog Rescue (Texas). Viewers who are interested in adopting a pet in their area can visit Petfinder.

A great cause wrapped around an equally cute production. Sorry Madonna, unless you've got puppies, kittens, and various other baby animals in your act, you're already an underdog. 


Check out this year's Puppy Bowl starting lineup below. 


Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

Puppy Bowl 2012 starting lineup revealed
Animal Planet's hilarious Super Bowl half time distraction returns for its eighth showdown of cuteness.