Duncan, a 9 month-old collie, romps through the snow in the Herrick family’s backyard in Scarborough on Sunday. Duncan was selected to participate in Puppy Bowl XVI, which will air on Animal Planet before the Super Bowl on Sunday. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Duncan has a Cinderella story that any sports fan can love.

The nine-month-old rough collie from Maine will be part of the starting lineup of Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl, a popular annual broadcast that will air Sunday afternoon before the primetime Super Bowl. The puppy was part of a major seizure from a Solon breeder last year and has since been adopted through the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland.

“He came from a state seizure, from a tough beginning. Now he’s romping on the field, trying to score touchdowns and returns home to a loving family, so it’s a great way to show his growth and his success,” said Jeana Roth, director of community engagement at the Animal Refuge League. “It’s a really great way to showcase adoption and to advocate for the work shelters do.”

Duncan was one of more than 130 animals seized from the Solon business in July. Officials released few details at the time, saying only that the animals needed “urgent care.”

Donna Noyes, the kennel owner, was charged with one count of cruelty to animals, which was a civil violation. In the formal complaint, officials stated that Noyes deprived the animals of necessary sustenance, medical attention, proper shelter, protection from weather and humanely clean conditions.

District Attorney Maeghan Maloney, whose office prosecutes criminal cases and civil violations in Kennebec and Somerset counties, said Noyes pleaded guilty to that violation on Jan. 22. Her penalty was a fine of $500 and restitution of $4,000. She is also prohibited from owning animals for five years, excluding the small number of pets she was allowed to keep after the seizure.

For the first time since 2007, the state set up an emergency animal shelter last summer in response to the large seizure. More than a dozen agencies and organizations agreed to help, and the Animal Refuge League received more than 60 dogs, including two that gave birth to litters shortly after their arrival.

The Animal Refuge League found new homes for all of its rescues from Solon by December. Roth did not know whether the other agencies involved have found placements for all of the other animals from that seizure.

The Herrick family, from left, Evelyn, Chris, E.J. and Alison, sit with their nine-month-old collie, Duncan, who they adopted in November. Duncan was selected to star in Puppy Bowl XVI, which will air Sunday. Jill Brady/StaffPhotographer Buy this Photo

She said the puppies have an easier transition to new homes because they spent less time with the breeder, but some animals needed medical procedures and basic training. For example, Roth said, many adult dogs had never learned to run in an open yard or walk on a leash.

“When animals come from a situation like the Solon case, there’s been some overbreeding happening, and we know that can cause health concerns,” Roth said. “For us, it was about talking openly and candidly (with potential adopters) about what the animals’ needs were and making sure that they were able to meet those needs now but also for the rest of their lives.”

Duncan was thriving early on in his Scarborough foster home, so the staff submitted his Puppy Bowl application, along with two other dogs. Volunteers brought the three puppies to New York City in October for filming, and the Animal Refuge League learned earlier this month that Duncan made the starting lineup for Team Fluff. This is the third year the Westbrook nonprofit has sent puppies to the big game.

Alison Herrick met Duncan before he was a celebrity when her neighbor was fostering the puppy. The Herricks also have two cats, but they wanted a canine playmate for their own rescue dog, Russet. So they watched Duncan for a weekend so see how he would fit in at their home, and then adopted the puppy after he returned from his trip to the city.

“I have a soft spot for collies because I had a collie growing up,” Herrick, 44, said. “It’s hard to say no.”

Herrick said Duncan has adjusted well to a new home, although he still eats any food he can find. Now, he likes to go on walks with his family in the woods behind their home and snuggle with their three children. Herrick said her 14-year-old daughter kisses each of the four pets goodbye when she leaves for school in the morning.

“He’s gotten big real fast, and I don’t think he realizes his size,” Herrick said of Duncan. “His nose is really long, so early on, he’s run into things.”

The team that scores the greatest number of touchdowns – earned by carrying a toy into the end zone – wins the Chewy.com Lombarky Trophy. The Herricks aren’t allowed to know in advance whether Duncan’s team was the victor. But the family has watched the Puppy Bowl on TV in the past – her daughter was excited when Duncan got drafted to Team Fluff, Herrick said – and they expect playfulness will overcome clumsiness in his performance.

“I’d be surprised if he didn’t get in there,” Herrick said. “Our youngest son, he plays flag football. So when this all happened, we were like, you and Duncan can get a game together.”

Puppy Bowl XVI will air Sunday at 3 p.m. on Animal Planet. The competitors come from rescue organizations across the country.

Roth encouraged people to notify their animal control officer or other authorities if they suspect animals are being neglected in their communities.

“This was a large amount of animals living in one home in less than ideal conditions,” she said. “While we were honored to help these animals and find that new beginning, it could have been prevented.”

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