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Humane Society has plans to expand

The North Pinellas group needs help with its Mutt Strut fundraiser and a campaign to raise funds for a new medical building project.

The Humane Society of North Pinellas is looking for help to raise funds to keep it growing.

First, on Saturday, Feb. 12, the organization is calling for people who want to participate in the eighth annual Mutt Strut in Crest Lake Park, the group's largest yearly fundraiser.

Then later this spring, the Humane Society is hoping to finish a major fundraising campaign to collect $500,000 for a new medical building to be added at its site on State Road 590.

The building will house a new, low-cost clinic to spay and neuter pets for the public, in addition to better medical facilities for all the pets that the society cares for annually.

"When we're finished, our capacity will be to care for over 360 animals," said Traci Theis, director of development for the society. "And we'll have two surgery rooms, as opposed to just one."

About $250,000 for the new medical center has been pledged, Theis said, thanks especially to the generosity of two local pets.

George and Dolores Cutchens of Safety Harbor have pledged a total of $100,000 to the effort on behalf of Calvin, a black-and-white cat, and Sterling, a schnauzer, the couple own.

The first $50,000 was offered as part of a community challenge. Once the community matched it, the Cutchens promised to give another $50,000.

The society is hoping to keep the donations rising by offering to name items in the new medical center for other generous pets, Theis said. The society will also try to drum up funds at a Fur Ball in May at the Harborview Center.

Meanwhile, next month's strut is expected to draw about 800 to 1,000 people for the 9 a.m. walk-a-thon. Participants can hang out for fun and games until about noon.

About 45 exhibit spaces in the park will include a pet caricaturist, an agility course and dog IQ tests. Celebrity guests will include the canines of some Tampa Bay Buccaneer players (and the athletes themselves), although the guests haven't been announced.

The Humane Society will be hosting a clinic at the strut to insert microchips under the skin of pets' necks for $10. The microchips, which can be read electronically to determine an owner's name and address, usually cost about $45.

Prizes for top fundraising teams and randomly selected contestants will include theme park tickets, vacation packages and pet store gift certificates.

Last year's event raised about $40,000. This year, organizers of the strut are hoping to raise about $55,000 through the pledges that walkers bring in, Theis said. The Humane Society depends on the event to cover annual operating costs.

FYI

For a registration brochure for the strut, call the Mutt Strut hotline at 727-796-3581; for information on the planned medical building expansion, call 797-7722.

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