GIRARD - Mary Ann Hoffman, who owns a large American mastiff named Raja, said the goal of holding Bark 'n the Park is to bring pet owners together for a day of fun with their dogs while also raising awareness of properly caring for pets.
The canine fun festival was held recently at Stambaugh Park in Girard.
Cindie Brown, secretary to St. Franics Pet Care board of directors, which sponsored the event, said the focus of many of the activities included educating people about pets and the proper care of them.
"One of the things we will be doing this fall is educating children in the schools through the Pet Cadet program," she said.
Hoffman, who is president of St. Francis Pet Care, said she has spoken to different organizations and groups and will take the program to the schools in September.
Money raised from the festival will fund the Cadets for Pets Youth Program, which will teach children the proper treatment of animals.
Brown said the non-profit organization wants to educate children and adults on the proper techniques for taking care of and interacting with pets. The group works to promote the proper treatment of pets.
"We're encouraging better education and awareness," Brown said.
Brown said an example is when a dog is left in a cage all day people need to know dogs are social animals and want to be out.
"Too many dogs sit in a cage and will continue barking because they are bored or lonesome. Dogs are pack animals. We are part of their pack. Too many people do not realize this. We are not trying to put people down, but educate them," Brown said.
She said another example is too many people drag a dog around on a leash by the neck with a collar which could be replaced with a body harness which is more caring and easier for the dog.
Hoffman said the event at the park included various agility course activities, costume contest, pet-owner lookalike contest, bone hunt, bubble machine, hula hoop activity and parade for dogs and their owners.
"Some of the dogs were afraid to go inside a small agility tunnel. I gave the owners some tips of what they could do. One dog loved it once it went through the first time. Some dogs wanted to keep doing it. It is like a child being given motivation," Hoffman said.
She said creating awareness if important for all pet owners.
"We want people to give their pets attention," she said.
Newton Falls resident Michelle Krueger, who along with her husband, Steve, brought their six dogs to the event. She said it is important for people to spay and neuter their pets and also adopt rescue dogs.
Hoffman's own dog, Raja, weighs 250 pounds. Raja is a therapy dog who visits area nursing homes and serves as Hoffman's co-instructor for dog training.
Hoffman said she's hopeful that Bark 'n the Park will become a biannual tradition in the Valley.
A dog masquerade ball fundraiser is planned Oct. 5 in Tod Park in Girard.
For information, visit www.stfrancispetcare.org or call 330-272-7435.