BROOKSVILLE — Pet owners will find lots of chances to play with their well-curried canines, fluffy felines and exotic birds, and they can also shop for pet apparel, care items and personal adornments at the sixth annual Nature Coast Pet Expo on Saturday and Sunday at Tom Varn Park.
Even animal lovers who don't own pets can take in furry, hairy and feathered sights, and stroll Adoption Alley for a new family member.
More than 2,000 attended last year's expo when the sponsoring Humane Society of the Nature Coast greeted officials of ZooToo, a national organization conducting a contest to award money to animal shelters with strong community support.
Ranking fourth nationwide, the Nature Coast received $10,000 to upgrade its shelter at Wiscon and Mobley roads.
On tap at this year's expo
• Pooches Playground features games such as a newspaper fetch and obstacle challenge.
• Good Citizenship Certification, which tests a pet's social graces, such as not jumping on people and obeying commands.
• Pet photo contest. Twenty-five entries will be selected for the society's 2011 calendar. Snapshots are $5. The contest entry donation is $10.
• Information on low-cost spay and neuter services sponsored by the Coalition for Animal Welfare — $10 for cats, $20 for dogs.
• Contests for pets in costume, pet-owner look-alike, cute animal tricks and pet kissing. As to the latter, society executive director Joanne Schoch explained: "Every pet will kiss their owner, but will they kiss somebody they don't know?"
• Lure chase in which a pet runs a course in pursuit of a knotted fabric or plastic attraction.
• Demonstrations on obedience, pet and child safety, and pet health.
• Adoption Alley, exhibiting pets ready to be adopted from several area animal rescue organizations. "This is what matters most to us at the Pet Expo," Schoch said.
• Blessing of the Animals at 10 a.m. Saturday by the Rev. Shanda Mahurin of St. Andrews Episcopal Church.
Admission supports the Nature Coast shelter's operating fund. "In this economy we are struggling to make our expenses. We're operating at a deficit," Schoch reported. Last year's event brought in about $16,000.
"So many people send money to the Humane Society of the United States," she said. "It doesn't filter down to us. If you don't donate money locally, it doesn't come to our shelter. If (donors) want to help their community, if they want to save lives in their community, it's important that they donate at a local level," Schoch said.
The ZooToo prize money paid for a central heat and air conditioning system in the cat cottage, windows in the cottage and an independent air filtration system for the cat isolation room.
Donations for the animal rescue agency and its no-kill shelter can be made to Humane Society of the Nature Coast, P.O. Box 10328, Brooksville, FL 34603.
Beth Gray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.