Arts and Entertainment

Canines take center stage at PAWS Wagfest on Bainbridge

Participants can enter best costume and look-alike contests. - Photo courtesy of PAWS
Participants can enter best costume and look-alike contests.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of PAWS

While PAWS is often known as a feline-focused organization, the nonprofit animal welfare group will celebrate canines at its eighth annual WagFest on May 16.

“PAWS is exceptionally excited about supporting dog owners and dog-loving families on Bainbridge and North Kitsap,” PAWS Executive Director Mark Hufford said. “We are excited to host an event like this because it helps fight the perception that PAWS is only about cats. We actually spend more on dogs than we do on cats.”

One of WagFest’s goals this year is to encourage dogs and their owners to engage in the activities.

“We’re trying to make everything participatory this year,” Hufford said. “The (Olympic) Disc Dogs will be doing demonstrations and people will be able to participate and teach their own dogs.”

Participants are encouraged to complete the 1.5-mile dog walk which circles the park.

The festival will feature K-9 police dogs, canine dancers and question-and-answer sessions with a dog trainer.

Participants who want to enter the event’s numerous contests – from pet-owner look-alike to “waggiest tail” – must register by May 15 to be considered.

The dog walk begins at 10 a.m. while the demonstrations and activities start at 10:30 a.m.

The five-hour event will benefit PAWS’ pet retention programs: the pet food bank and veterinary financial assistance.

The programs provide assistance to low-income pet owners.

According to its Web site, PAWS has provided financial assistance to nearly 3,000 pet owners in the last decade.

“There is absolutely a national trend a huge spike in people relinquishing pets to animal shelters because of the economy,” Hufford said.

PAWS hopes to spread its outreach to different areas of the community.

“PAWS is really in an expansion mode right now,” he said. “We’re looking at new programs and most of them involve both dogs and cats. We’re about to start a visiting therapy pet program that will be mostly dogs. A dog/human team that is trained and certified and goes into retirement homes and performs therapeutic visits.”

Hufford hopes PAWS will continue to grow in conjunction with other local animal groups such as the Kitsap Humane Society, Ferry Dog Mothers and Rescue Every Dog.

“This also has been a great evolution over the last few years because it used to be the culture where different animal welfare groups almost ran independently and were sort of competitive in terms of fundraising,” he said. “Now we have a coalition.”

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PAWS WagFest

9:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m., May 16 at Battle Point Park

Activities: Q&A sessions with dog trainers, contests, wagon rides and a 1.5-mile dog walk

More information: www.pawsbainbridge.org

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