EUSTIS – As a non-profit agency serving the needs of the North Lake County area, the Lake County Humane Society relies on public support and donations to carry out its mission of providing safe shelter for abandoned, injured and abused cats and dogs.
“We have no government support,” said Angie Klein, the vice president of the shelter. “We are all private donations, food donations, monetary donations.”
And at a time when the economy is still struggling to shake off the impact of the national recession and the weak housing market, “Those donations have decreased,” she added.
What it takes, then, to bring in the funds needed to help keep the shelter operating, and to hopefully raise awareness of the shelter and its mission, is a special event that brings out crowds and crowds of dog lovers.
Klein said for nearly the past decade, the Humane Society has found just the right ticket for that kind of popular, crowd-pleasing – and animal-lover pleasing – event. On Sunday, Nov. 11, the Lake County Humane Society is presenting its 9th Annual West-MUTT-Ster Dog Show at the Lake County Fairgrounds at 2101 N. County Road 452 in Eustis.
It’s an event that the Humane Society has successfully built up over the years.
“We are expecting a pretty good crowd,” Klein said, and that includes a group that has quite a bit in common and a lot of stories to share – dog lovers.
“My dogs are like my children, and a lot of people feel that way about their dogs,” Klein said. “That’s what makes this such a fun event. They get to come out and meet and one another, and make friends and hang out. It’s very interesting to hear some people’s stories – they’ve had their dogs for years, and they all have stories to tell.”
The 9th Annual West-MUTT-Ster Dog Show begins on Veterans Day at 10 a.m., and runs until 4 p.m. Area residents are encouraged to bring their dog, mixed or purebred, for an event suitable for the entire family.
“It was originally a fund-raiser, and to get the community involved in what we do,” Klein said. “We are a not-for-profit, no kill shelter and have been since 1976, and this event has grown immensely. Every year, there are more people that want to come out. We have events there, like our dog contests, and a silent auction, and it’s really amazing and really, really fun. The kids love it, and the adults have fun, too. It’s not just primarily for children, it’s for everybody in the community. Even if they’re not registered to be in the games or the events and competitions, they still can get together to socialize.”
That feeling of camaraderie that dog lovers share, she said, extends to the pets themselves. Even though the fairgrounds is swarming with different kinds of dogs, they all remain remarkably well behaved and have their fun, too, Klein said.
“You know what — we’ve never had a problem there,” she said. “We have a lot of dogs who are very well socialized there.”
Registration for the contests begins at noon, and the contests themselves – including best costume and best trick – run from 2-4 p.m. There will be plenty of other activities in-between.
“We’re going to have a vaccination clinic from 11 (a.m.) to 2 (p.m.) for shots for your animals,” Klein said. “Then the silent auction will be from noon to 3.”
But in addition to all the fun, Klein said they also hope to have a reminder of what the Humane Society’s central mission is, and the critical function it plays for the entire community.
“Last year we had a dog that was a very severe abuse case, and we had fund-raisers to help him get well again,” Klein said, adding that the recession has also taken a major impact on pets. As families struggle to cope with the loss of their job or even their home, their pets become a luxury they can no longer afford.
“The recession has been difficult,” she said. “We have seen a rise in animals that come to our shelter. I happened to be there one day, volunteering. You see people come in and drop off their animal, and they’re crying because they can’t feed them anymore, and it’s actually heartbreaking. They’re trying to do the right thing because they know we’re a no-kill shelter. It’s a huge role we play in the community. It’s a wonderful shelter, an amazing place.”
To learn more, call the Humane Society at 352-589-7400 or log on to www.humanelake.com.
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