Audrey Ruiz and her dog Zuma both dressed as Wonder Woman and won the prize for best costume at the Bow-Wows & Meows Pet Fair. Matt Fernandez/The Signal

Bow-wows & Meows fair affected by Saddleridge Fire

Thousands of pet lovers and hundreds of their furry friends flocked to William S. Hart Park on Sunday to celebrate their love for animals at the 19th annual Bow-Wows & Meows Pet Fair.

Bow-wows and Meows Pet Fair at W.S. Hart Park in Newhall.

Sarah Vatcher, social media coordinator for the pet fair, said approximately 100 vendors participated in this year’s fair and she expected between 5,000 to 10,000 people and 300 animals to visit the event. 

“We do this for the animals to try to find them homes and to help support local businesses,” Vatcher said. “It’s great to see so many people out here and to know that the community still supports us after all this time. We’re hoping this is a bright spot and fun in people’s weekend with all the serious, crazy things that have been going on like the fires.”

Due to complications from the Saddleridge Fire like poor air quality, many shelters could neither attend nor bring their animals to the fair. However, Vatcher said the only thing that could have stopped the fair from happening was if the park itself decided to close. Representatives from the Castaic Animal Care Center were present to tell prospective adopters about the different animals that were available.

Terra Despirito, social media head for the Castaic Animal Care Center, said the decision not to bring any animals was a county decision, and that attendees were very understanding.

“We have profiles of all the animals here today and we’re sending people up to the shelter to meet and adopt them, and we’ve already had two people drive up from the fair to adopt,” Despirito said. “Every year that we come here almost all our animals get adopted so this is an incredible resource for us.”

However, the fire didn’t stop the fair from being a good time for attendees. 

Kaitlyn Saxton came to the fair with the hope of adopting an animal, but said she understood why the shelters did not bring any animals to the fair.

“It’s an inconvenience, but they brought profiles of all the animals they have and you can still go to the shelter to meet and adopt an animal on the same day,” Saxton said.

Bianca Fonseca, whose company Luna Ink Designs produces apparel for humans and pets, said she loves coming to pet fairs as a vendor and that Bow-Wows & Meows is the biggest she has seen. Fonseca also set up a kissing booth at her stall with her Boston terriers Charlie and Peanut to collect donations for the Kittens of LA rescue. 

Bianca Fonseca set up a kissing booth at her stall at the Bow-Wows & Meows pet fair with her Boston terriers Charlie and Peanut to collect donations for the Kittens of LA rescue. Matt Fernandez/ The Signal

“I love seeing all the breeds of dogs and interacting with a lot of new people,” Fonseca said. “Events like this are great for exposure and help us to grow with the community as we better understand what we can provide for them. The benefit of being here in person as opposed to an advertisement online is that people actually get to see our products and talk to me one on one.”

Heather Lasko attended the pet fair for the first time with her two dogs.

“I’ve been wanting to come for a long time but just have never been able to,” Lasko said. “I really like the pet fair and I’m looking forward to watching the dog agility show. Things like this are great because they bring the community together and encourage people to get outside.”

Katie Ruiz and her daughter Audrey participated in this year’s Fun Dog Show. Audrey and Zuma both dressed up as Wonder Woman and won the best costume category in the show.

“It’s exciting to win,” Ruiz said. “I lost last year so this win was fun. We love coming to this fair each year because we love dogs and it’s a free, fun thing we can do as a family.”

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