BROOKSVILLE — Although normally off-limits to pets, even those on leashes, Tom Varn Park once again will be going to the dogs — and other furry friends — during this weekend's fourth annual Nature Coast Pet Expo.
On tap will be a number of activities meant to celebrate the special bond between pets and their owners.
It's a couple of fun days out that shouldn't be a rare occasion in Hernando County, says Humane Society of the Nature Coast director Joanne Schoch. In fact, she thinks that a portion of every public park should be set aside for pets and their owners to enjoy.
"Pet owners are much more responsible than some people give them credit for," Schoch said. "We've been doing this for four years now, and I've yet to hear of one complaint about someone getting bitten or stepping
into dog mess."
Indeed, save for a new dog park that is set to open this summer at Centennial Park in Spring Hill, Schoch says there are precious few open spaces in which canines and their owners can romp. All of which is why the temporary waiver of a ban on pets by the city of Brooksville makes for such a popular event.
"People enjoy it because it allows them to gather together to show off their animals and to perhaps learn more about them," Schoch said.
She said attendance at last year's event was markedly up from the previous year, with attendees coming from as far away as Hillsborough and Citrus counties to take part in activities such as a Doggy Fun Zone, a photo contest and a pet fashion show. In addition, a variety of vendors of pet-related items will be on hand, as will veterinarian
Of course, the event is the perfect showcase for agencies such as Schoch's, whose no-kill shelter offers hope for homeless, abused and neglected animals. Saturday's opening ceremonies will include a "bow wow" brigade featuring pets and owners who have pledged monetary support for the Humane Society.
"We're always hoping to create more awareness when it comes to pet adoption," said Schoch. An area of the park called "Adoption Alley" will allow visitors to meet some of the many animals that are in need of good homes.
Although it may seem that the event is "dog centered," Schoch said other pets are welcome as long as they are on leashes and their owners are willing to clean up after them.
"I've seen some cat owners who have braved it very well," Schoch said.