Meet the Celebrity Judges of the Cutest Rescue Dog Contest — the Rescue Pet Parents of The Talk

·4 min read
Akbar Gbajabiamila, Amanda Kloots, Sheryl Underwood, Jerry OConnell & Natalie Morales hosts of the CBS daytime series THE TALK, scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network
Akbar Gbajabiamila, Amanda Kloots, Sheryl Underwood, Jerry OConnell & Natalie Morales hosts of the CBS daytime series THE TALK, scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network

Cliff Lipson/CBS via Getty Images

The Talk is back from its summer break, making it the ideal time to get to know the celebrity judges for PEOPLE's World's Cutest Rescue Dog Contest Presented by the PEDIGREE® Brand, who happen to be three of the hosts from the CBS daytime talk show.

Along with hosting The Talk together, Akbar Gbajabiamila, Natalie Morales, and Jerry O'Connell are all rescue dog owners, which made them the ideal celebrity judges for the World's Cutest Rescue Dog Contest.

The contest launched this summer and received thousands of entries from adorable adopted pooches hoping to be crowned the cutest rescue dog. PEOPLE narrowed down all of these fantastic entries to 10 furry finalists. Animal lovers can now vote for their favorite dog in the Top 10 once a day through Sept. 28 at people.com/rescuedogcontest.

Once voting is closed, the three dogs with the most votes will move on to the judging round. Akbar Gbajabiamila, Natalie Morales, and Jerry O'Connell, along with judges from PEOPLE and the PEDIGREE® brand, will pick a winner from the top trio. The 2022 winner of the World's Cutest Rescue Dog Contest will be announced on Oct. 12.

RELATED: Vote for Your Favorite World's Cutest Rescue Dog Contest Finalist Now

Akbar Gbajabiamila, Natalie Morales, and Jerry O'Connell all have their own adorable rescue dogs who will help them with their contest judging. Get the know the hosts and their canines below before the World's Cutest Rescue Dog Contest champion is chosen.

World's Cutest Rescue Dog Contest
World's Cutest Rescue Dog Contest

Courtesy of The Talk

Gbajabiamila, a former NFL player who also hosts NBC's competition series American Ninja Warrior and American Ninja Warrior Junior, is a dog dad to two pups. His dog Yuri (pictured above) is from Wags and Walks, a Los Angeles-based pet adoption center. Gbajabiamila said he felt an instant connection with Yuri upon meeting the dog. Yuri is the newest addition to Gbajabiamila's family, which includes his wife and four children, and has fit right in.

"We were looking to grow our family, and the best way was to adopt a dog in need, so we really helped each other. Yuri's companionship really helped the entire family get through the pandemic," Gbajabiamila said about his rescue dog.

World's Cutest Rescue Dog Contest
World's Cutest Rescue Dog Contest

Courtesy of The Talk

Morales has two rescue dogs, Zara and Obi, and said it was love at first sight for her with both pets.

"I met Zara when she was on Today for a pet travel segment. She was from North Shore Animal League on Long Island. As soon as we met, Zara looked right at me and put her paw out to greet me. She didn't bark or beg, she just looked me in the eye, and I knew!" Morales said of meeting Zara.

"I had grown up with a dog my whole life and knew how important it was for me to have that best friend and constant companion in my life, so we decided to adopt Zara," Morales added. "She is my little soulmate."

RELATED: Deaf Dog Finds His Forever Home with Deaf Teen with Autism: 'He Has to Be Mine!'

Obi, who Morales has dubbed "Mr. Personality," joined Zara after Morales moved to California.

"He was on for a Puppy Bowl segment for Access, and I fell in love with his little face and freckles. He is a classic L.A. mutt. I did his doggie DNA, and it was no surprise to learn he is part Chihuahua (which we knew just by his piercing bark and very protective behavior), terrier, poodle, and spaniel, among others," Morales said of Obi, adding that the dog fit right in with her family.

World's Cutest Rescue Dog Contest
World's Cutest Rescue Dog Contest

Courtesy of The Talk

O'Connell admitted he wasn't sure about getting a pet when his wife, Rebecca Romijn, spotted a dog named Phil while browsing PetFinder.com on a car trip. Regardless, the couple ended up stopping at the shelter and adopting Phil that day. Now, O'Connell is ecstatic that they made that choice because it didn't take him long to fall in love with Phil. The dog and The Talk host are now best friends.

To learn more about the judges of PEOPLE's World's Cutest Rescue Dog Contest Presented by the PEDIGREE® Brand and vote for your favorite finalist, visit people.com/rescuedogcontest. You can see the contest's celebrity judges on The Talk, which airs on weekdays on CBS.