BY Winni Zhou
Hundreds of dogs and their owners gathered at Pier 84 on Saturday morning, September 28, for a charity walk to raise funds and draw attention to local pet rescue groups.
The host of the event, Best Friends Animal Society, an animal welfare organization founded in 1984, has a national network that facilitates work among animal shelters, rescue groups, local municipalities and pet lovers, with the goal of eliminating kill shelters.
The event, “Strut Your Mutt,” began as a local event in Utah in 1994, and has been held nationwide for five years, last year raising $1.3 million. It is being held in 11 cities this year with a fundraising goal of $1.5 million, according to Best Friends co-founder Francis Battista.
Most of the money raised on Saturday will go to local rescue groups. Participating pet owners walk their dogs and ask passersby to sponsor them, or to pledge contributions to various pet rescue organizations.
Check-in for the half-mile dog walk began at 8 a.m., and the walk started at an hour later, followed by an open-air market for dog-related products and activities.
The fund supports organizations that work to find good homes for shelter animals, and potential adoptees must fill out forms and host home visits to prove that they’ll be responsible pet owners. Pam Ward, the co-founder of Anarchy Animal Rescue, a three-year-old national rescue group that also addresses the mistreatment and abuse of animals due to puppy mills, said it was her second time taking part in the event.
Ward said that the money from the walk was a small but significant chunk of donations they received throughout the year. “Even though it’s once a year, it’s helpful to us at this time,” she said. “For this event, we received $2,000.”
Jennifer Coffey, a consultant for special projects at Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, who adopted her dog from a shelter three and half years ago, sat on the stairs with seven-year-old Beauregard,watching the walk. Beauregard was found with open wounds, limping, on a street in Atlanta, possibly having been hit by a car, and he still shakes when he has to deal with other dogs. “But we are here, we are here to support,” said Coffey.
Dog adoption benefits the owner as well as the dog, she feels. “It’s something from the heart, it’s hope, wanting love and wanting to give love,” said Coffey. “When they all come together, I saw his picture, it was slam dunk.”
An hour later, volunteers applauded as each dog and owner passed the “Finish” banner and joined the big crowd at the fair at Hudson River Park.
A photographer was on hand to take portraits of dogs, or family pictures with their owners. Food vendors distributed various treat samples. Karen Ambrosetti, the owner of Pirate Paws Bakery, an online dog food store, hawked her products and handed out coupons for her online shop for the second year in a row. “I like the host [group],” she said. “I believe in what they do and want to support them if I can.”
Through continuous efforts, shelter deaths dropped by 16 percent from 8,200 in 2011 to 6,900 in 2012 in the New York City area. For this year, the figure was 2,200 at the end of July.