By AMANDA KIMBLE
ERATH COUNTY (October 12, 2016) – October – National Pitbull Awareness Month and Adopt a Shelter Dog Month – is the perfect time for an fun-filled education fair for dog lovers.
Angels & Outlaws Second Chance Bully Ranch and Texas Animal Protectors have joined forces to host the Fall 2016 Pet-ucation Fair from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday at Jaycee Optimist Park in Stephenville.
The event features all sorts of fun activities for pet owners, their four-legged companions and animal lovers of all ages. The tail-wagging good time will include a costume contest, doggie parade and doggie kissing booth. Attendees won’t want to miss great takeaways like pet food samples, fall family photos, winnings from a 50/50 raffle, gifts and goodies from vendors and more.
But, the fair is not just fun and games. Resources aimed at creating conscious pet owners and equally savvy community members, like information on low cost vaccination and spay/neutering services and interaction education for children will also be available.
Jennifer Aikman, founder of Angels & Outlaws, said raising responsible pet owners starts at a young age. Aikman founded the rescue in 2011 and, up until about two years ago, had as many as 60 animals in foster care at a time. The effort stretched from Erath County as far north as McKinney and as far east as Gun Barrel City.
“Right now, I have 15 in care,” Aikman said, adding the territory has been reduced to a five county area, Erath, Hamilton, Comanche, Eastland and Brown counties.
While Angels & Outlaws still works to save the lives of bull breeds, Aikman said the focus has shifted.
“I have moved the focus to training and helping people keep their dogs,” she said. “When people want to surrender their pet, I first ask them to let me try to help make life with their dog better.”
Part of improving that relationship is about educating the public about proper pet etiquette – lessons that should be taught sooner rather than later.
“The children’s safety aspect (of the pet-ucation fair) will focus on how kids interact with the dogs they meet in the open, whether they are strays or someone else’s pet,” Aikman said.
She said safety is compromised when even the friendliest of dogs is randomly approached by a stranger, and the risks increase when dogs are not socialized or have antisocial personalities.
“Approaching and reaching out to strange dogs, no matter their size or breed, leads to biting,” Aikman said. “It’s important for us to teach children proper animal etiquette. I love seeing parents who tell their children to ask if they can pet or approach a dog. That shows a healthy love and respect for dogs and it’s something that needs to be taught.”
But Aikman said dog safety is a two-way street, and it’s important for pet owners to know their dog’s limitations and understand their natural instincts.
“A lot of public events, one thing I notice is that people bring their pets without understanding that people aren’t aware of proper pet etiquette,” Aikman added. “For example, nose-to-nose interaction between two dogs is a challenge. You will oftentimes see that interaction followed by a fight between two dogs and even a fight between two people.”
Only dogs experienced in adding public events and being around groups of people should be taken to the pet fair – and similar events. And, although conscious animal lovers are invited to bring their socialized dogs to the pet-ucation fair, Aikman said another rule will be enforced.
“If you come with a leash longer than four feet, we will have some shorter leashes for you to borrow,” she said. “Some pet owners aren’t aware longer leashes, including the retractable type, may give their dogs more room to run and play, but they (pet owners) are no longer in control.”
Finally, Aikman said assistance to pet owners is something Angels & Outlaws always works to provide.
“In our area there is are no low cost resources,” she said. “We help with dog food when it’s needed and will go so far as to provide transportation to get dogs to the nearest low-cost spay and neuter clinics. Everyone deserves the joy of having a dog in their life, even if they need a little help.”
Saturday’s event will offer information on resources like Texas Coalition for Animal Protection, which will provide $14 spays and neuters through the month of November. While the nearest TCAP location is in Weatherford, Aikman said she can arrange for transportation for up to 15 pets at a time. But, she advises pet owners to make arrangements for the service early to guarantee availability by calling TCAP at 817-837-4500.
Learn how you can become involved with Aikman’s mission of helping area pet owners in need by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow Angels & Outlaws Second Chance Bully Ranch on Facebook.
Pet-ucation fair co-sponsor Texas Animal Protectors (TAP) is dedicated to rescuing animals who are homeless or abused while providing assistance to animal shelters that are overcrowded and care to animals without regard for age, breed or ease of placement.
Animals in TAP’s care are spayed or neutered and receive all appropriate veterinary care and treatment.
For more information on the pet-ucation fair, call Aikman at 254-243-0566 or TAP’s Leslee Clements at 254-592-3888.
The annual event is organized to raise funds for animal rescue, education and assistance efforts in and around Erath County. Community members who would like offer assistance are encouraged to contribute through monetary donations or by giving pet food and supplies at the pet-ucation fair.