As a couple walks by with a dog on a leash and an adoption goodie bag, Yvonne Hanson congratulates them, tears welling up in her eyes.
“That’s one more dog that doesn’t have to sleep in a shelter and on a cement floor tonight,” Hanson said. “That’s what fuels me. I don’t even know that couple, but I’m so happy for them and that dog.”
Hanson is the founder and president of the Bow-Wows & Meows Pet Fair, which held its 18th annual fair on Sunday at William S. Hart Park in Newhall. The event featured more than 200 dogs, cats and rabbits for adoption along with vaccinations, 70 different pet supply vendors, a raffle, dog show and performances by the Sundance Dog Team.
Kyra Sundance and her two dogs Jadie and Kimba performed tricks for the crowds that included jumping rope, playing basketball and painting.
“I first performed at Bow-Wows & Meows about seven years ago,” Sundance said. “Every dog has its own strengths, and coming out to events like this gives people the opportunity to meet a lot of new people and discover new areas that your dog may be a star in. But whatever your dog’s strengths and weaknesses are, take pride in that because it’s your dog.”
When Hanson first started the event, she said she only planned it to be a one-time event as a way to help other people experience the same loving relationship with animals that she did. Hanson said that with the help of sponsors, she has continued the event and kept it free because she doesn’t want to discourage anyone from learning more about pet ownership and adopting. Nineteen animals were adopted in the first half-hour alone.
“We’ve grown to the point where we’re expecting about 15,000 people and we’re shooting for over 200 adoptions today,” said Hanson, who adopted a dog earlier this year. “You don’t even have to have a pet or be looking to adopt to have a good time. The point isn’t to pressure people who aren’t ready to adopt to do so. The event is also perfect for people who just love animals.”
First-time attendees Jamie and Pamela Heaton found out about the fair through Facebook and came to the fair hoping to find a new dog to adopt. Though they did not find their perfect match, they said they appreciated seeing shelter dogs in a fun and friendly atmosphere.
“This is a really wonderful event and it’s great to see the shelter animals out of their cages,” Pamela said. “We go to see shelter dogs all the time and their behavior is really different. It’s great that people get to see them in a different environment.”
Though Hanson said that it is always hard for her and her volunteers to put on the event each year on top of their daily lives, she feels like it’s her calling.
“I don’t mean to sound melodramatic, but if this fair did not happen, I would feel like I was failing to save the lives of 200 pets,” Hanson said. “Out of all the things I’ve done and the places I’ve been, this pet fair is the most important thing to me. It’s helped me learn more compassion towards pets and people.”