Beagle Paws holds fourth pet-centric fundraiser

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Promoting animal adoptions a caring but costly endeavour

The fourth annual Newfoundland and Labrador Pet Expo is being held today and Sunday at the ReMax Centre in St. John's. The event charges $3 for admission (kids under five get in free), with all money raised at the door going to Beagle Paws.

"There's things that the public can participate in with their pets," Beagle Paws president Sheila Lewis said. "We have dog sports, agility, flyball demonstrations and costume contests."

The fourth annual Newfoundland and Labrador Pet Expo is being held today and Sunday at the ReMax Centre in St. John's. The event charges $3 for admission (kids under five get in free), with all money raised at the door going to Beagle Paws.

"There's things that the public can participate in with their pets," Beagle Paws president Sheila Lewis said. "We have dog sports, agility, flyball demonstrations and costume contests."

There is also a "parade of pets" where all visitors can bring their pets and take part.

Groups such as St. John Ambulance Therapy Dogs, dachshunds of Newfoundland and Labrador, Embarr Stables, City of St. John's Humane Services and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) will be on hand.

Also included in the expo: a "bouncy beagle" for kids and displays by pet groomers, pet daycares, pet insurance providers, pet photographers and others with animal-centred businesses.

Lewis predicts an exhibit by Newfoundland Jungle will be an audience favourite this year.

"They do exotic pets and they do demonstrations and education about different types - they have large reptiles and parrots, snakes and that. They're very big. They're out of Halifax and here (in Newfoundland)," she said.

Hoping for return

While the first three years of the Pet Expo in St. John's has not provided the return hoped for, the Beagle Paws president said the hope is that this year will make a bigger impact and bring in a greater return for the group.

"We've sort of got the philosophy that if we stick with it and develop it over the years to come, then it will be a really successful thing for us in fundraising. It's a lot of fun for everybody. The volunteers enjoy it and it really helps get awareness out there in the public, too, about just what's available out there in the community and pet care and the different animal businesses that are here," she said.

"This year we've seen a big difference. The most booths we've ever had is this year. We're trying to figure out where we're going to squeeze everybody, and a lot of people have contacted us at the last minute with different things wanting to participate, so I think that's a good sign and I think this is definitely going to be our best year yet."

Volunteer effort

Pet Expo organizing begins around Christmas each year and is completed by Beagle Paws volunteers. The funds raised for the organization by the expo go to one place, Lewis said.

"All of our money goes to vet expenses. That's our biggest expense. We spend about $40,000 to $50,000 a year on veterinary care. We're in the hole right now with the vet clinic, quite a bit, so we're hoping that this will help us get out of the hole and carry us through the summer a bit."

Beagle Paws has never had to buy food for animals awaiting adoption, she added. They have been able to cover the need through donations from the public.

The group has also benefitted from a greater number of local adoptions this year, Lewis said. That means fewer animals sent to other Beagle Paws chapters across Canada in search of owners.

"It's nice to see because now we're building a little community, I guess, of families that have adopted locally," she said. "We're all for responsible breeding as well, but when there's so many dogs and animals in shelters that are in need, we say make adoption your first option."

Pedigree donating to Gander shelter

Like local Beagle Paws volunteers, dog food maker Pedigree is also working to increase pet adoptions and have started the 2010 Pedigree Adoption Drive.

As part of the pro-adoption campaign, 30 "partner shelters" across Canada are receiving a minimum of $5,000 donation from Pedigree (donations will total $150,000 nationwide). The Gander and Area SPCA, located at 36 McCurdy Dr. in Gander, has been selected as one of the shelters to receive a donation.

At the Gander SPCA, assistant manager Selma Kean said the donation from Pedigree will help to cover shelter costs - costs that ran to approximately $75,000 last year.

"We rely mostly on donations because we're not government funded," Kean said. "So we are very, very grateful for all the donations that come in, whether it's blankets or food or whatever."

She said expenses for the shelter include veterinary bills as well as general costs to keep the shelter running, including the light bill, phone and wages for two paid workers.

The Gander shelter has 20 volunteers, caring for held animals and dealing with a stream of visitors. The shelter housed an estimated 190 to 200 dogs and 250 cats last year, Kean said.

"Since January (this year) we've had 41 adoptions for dogs," she said.

Brand leader for Pedigree, Jenni Gunn, told The Telegram that while the company has a primary mandate of providing "high-quality, nutritious" food for dogs, "the second mandate that we have is to make sure that dogs, all dogs, including shelter dogs, live life to the fullest."

That means assist in the housing and encourage the adoption of so-called "shelter dogs" in Gander, in Newfoundland and across the country.

"We're not trying to convince consumers who otherwise wouldn't have adopted dogs to adopt dogs. We're not actually trying to increase the number of dogs in households across Canada. What we are trying to convince consumers to do is if they know they are going to be adopting a dog, they've made the decision, their own decision to take a dog into the family, all we're trying to do is get them to consider shelter dogs versus dogs from breeders or pet stores or another source," Gunn said.

Additional donations

In addition to their existing Canadian shelter donations, Pedigree has committed to donating $1 for every view of Pedigree's online "Adoption Tales" video (www.mypedigree.ca/adoption), to a maximum of $50,000 in 2010. The video features stories from past partner shelters.

Pedigree's 2010 Adoption Drive will include public events in six Canadian cities - Halifax, Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver. Today, world figure skating champion Kurt Browning will act as a spokesman for Pedigree at Woofstock, the largest North American outdoor festival for dogs, speaking about the benefits of animal adoption.

WWW

Weblinks

www.nlpetexpo.com

www.beaglepaws.com

www.mypedigree.ca

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

Organizations: ReMax Centre, Humane Services, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals The Telegram North American

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John's, Halifax Gander Canada Toronto Montreal Winnipeg Calgary Vancouver

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