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Having a real doggone good time

SPCA sponsors Bark at the Park fundraiser

Hundreds of dog owners show up for the Bark at the Park at Frances Slocum State Park.

Fred Adams Photos/For The Times Leader

Cheryl Emershaw carries Belle her dachshund at the Bark at the Park event at Frances Slocum after Belle’s legs tired.

A parade of pampered pooches pummeled the paths at Frances Slocum State Park on Saturday at the 19th annual Bark at the Park sponsored by the Luzerne County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). The 52-year-old nonprofit organization’s walk attracted about 500 participants and their pets.

Vince Sweeney, executive director, said he hoped this year’s event would raise $25,000 to “feed, house, fix and protect” the 7,000 animals that come through their doors each year. Last year’s event raised $24,000, he said.

Financially, the SPCA is “holding its own,” he said, emphasizing it runs completely on the “philanthropy” of animal lovers in Northeast Pennsylvania. Sweeney said the residents of Luzerne County are “very fortunate” to have a working SPCA. Many counties have lost theirs due to lack of funds or volunteers.

Some decrease in unwanted or abandoned pet cases is noticeable over the last 20 years, but the progress is very slow, he added. The primary challenge comes in dealing with the overpopulation of pets, he said. “We breed these animals for our companionship, we should give them a ‘fair shake,’” he said.

Sweeney emphasizes pet owners need to take the responsibility of spaying or neutering their pets.

On Saturday, the main focus was on fun and public outreach, he said. Dogs of all sizes, shapes and colors howled, barked and carefully greeted one another. Free T-shirts and dog treats were given to some participants. A large basket raffle was held and various prizes were given for walkers.

Participants paid $15 to walk the park, said volunteer Heather Balester. She said participants were encouraged to bring in pledges as well.

Some walkers took the one-half hour short path and the other more ambitious walkers took the 2 1/2-half mile terrain trek.

Liz Martin, co-chairwoman of the Dallas Harvest Festival Committee, and her huge St. Bernard Angus presented a $710 check to the SPCA. She chose the SPCA as her charity when she won a “Kiss the Pig” contest. Janine Hudak, manager from the Pizza Perfect restaurant in Trucksville, who attended with her 12-year-old beagle Boomer, said she donated money because of her genuine love for animals.

Cory Moran, education and volunteer director at the SPCA, described the participants as “good-hearted.” She and the dedicated volunteers take every opportunity to drive home the point about spaying and neutering.

“It only takes one time and it’s done,” she said.

Sweeney said the bark for life is the premier public outreach event for the SPCA.

He estimated about 60 percent of all households in Luzerne County have at least one pet and admitted the estimate was a conservative.

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