How to maximize your attendance at pet fairs.

Compiled by Charlene Bobis
Photo by Jeffrey C. Lim

There were many pet fairs and animal-related events over the summer, both in the metro and in major cities across the country. They were much fun, and we look forward to more of them! But did you know that there are ways to have fun of pet fairs? Beyond the raffles and the goodie bags, there is much more to be gotten out of attending a pet fair. We’ve compiled a list of tips from organizers like Karla Kangleon of Waggin’ Tails, friends on the animal scene, and pet owners themselves. Feel free to clip out this article and save it for your next pet event!

411 Preparation

Here are the most important tips that will help ensure everyone’s safety and happiness.

• Pre-register online if it’s offered, to save yourself the hassle of lining up at the venue.

• Check out the program of the event and note which events you’d like to see and what talks you’d like to listen to. You might even want to check out which booths offer discounts or freebies if you Instagram or post on Facebook a photo of your pet with their chosen theme.

• Come prepared at all times to clean up after your pet. This is a non-negotiable, as refusing to clean up after your pet is inconsiderate and thoughtless―and probably means you are a bad pet owner. Put yourself in a potential victim’s shoes: nothing is more inconvenient than stepping in poop at a public place. What if they slip and hurt themselves? Karma always comes back, after all. Bring newspaper and small biodegradable bags for this purpose.

• If you’re going to see an expert, why not prepare 1-3 questions you’d like answered? Don’t go for ordinary questions like “What should I feed my cat or dog?” Ask something about the person’s field of expertise that directly addresses any concerns you have with your pet.

• Speaking of shopping, if you’re going to an event with a bazaar, measure your pet before the event: weight, length, height, collar size, and whatever else you may need to measure for what you intend to buy. Save it on your mobile phone so that you won’t have to fumble in your bag or pockets for a printout.

• Bring your pet’s complete up-to-date vaccination record if you’re going to let it interact with other animals. This can come in handy especially with the era of mandatory pet registration looming over us. Plus it certifies that your pet can safely interact with others without the risk of either passing on or contracting a deadly disease.

• If you’re headed for an adoption event, bring a carrier for your new family member or a leash, if it’s a dog. Also, be prepared to hurdle an interview about your home and lifestyle habits; don’t be offended, because the animal welfare group adopting out dogs or cats is simply making sure you will be a good and responsible owner for what is often an abandoned or abused pet. Prepare some cash for the adoption fee, which is almost always cheaper than vaccinating and spaying/neutering the animal yourself (most adoptable animals already have their shots and have been thoroughly vetted).

Your Pet’s Comfort–And Yours

• All pets must have a collar and a leash; if your pet manages to run off, identification on the collar will help reunite you with him or her. These also help you keep your pet under control.

• Calm and relax your pet before the event through walking or exercise. You can also spend some extra bonding time with him or her so that he or she won’t be aggressive from frustration during the fair.

• Bring a separate drinking container. If you can, purchase a collapsible or fold-away container. Pets need water as they can easily get dehydrated; you can also cool them off with the water if need be. Spare yourself the mess and difficulty of trying to give your pet water from a water bottle designed for humans.

• Rain or shine, provide shade for your pet. Cats and dogs cannot sweat the way we do and thus have a harder time dealing with heat. On this note, be sure to touch the ground before walking a pet on it; if it’s too hot for you, think of what it feels like for your pet’s feet.

• If you have a small dog, consider bringing a carrier for it. They can’t cover as much ground as the bigger dogs without getting tired, and sometimes, they can get intimidated by bigger dogs. Or you can carry your pet yourself if it starts getting antsy!• You also have to take care of yourself: if it’s an open-air venue, bring sunscreen; if it’s raining and the venue is outdoors, bring a raincoat (umbrellas get in the way!); and don’t forget to stay hydrated too!

• If your pet is sick, do not bring it to a pet fair, especially if it hasn’t had its shots! This is beyond rude and inconsiderate; you may cause other pet owners grief if their dog or cat dies from a disease it picked up from your pet.• Stay alert, because accidents do happen; sometimes animals get loose and it’s best to be ready so that you don’t get bowled over.

Etiquette

• Don’t feed other people’s pets; they may have allergies or be on a strict diet.

• Chaperone your pet at all times to keep him or her under control. Unless your dog is well-trained, don’t let him or her off the leash because there is no telling how other animals will react to him or her.

• Never suddenly pat or grab a dog or its tail from behind; he or she may snap at you, and it’s just rude to handle someone else’s dog without permission from the owner. Always choose a calm pet, and ask the owner first if it’s okay. Once you have permission, let the dog sniff your hand first, then pet its chest, chin, or back (experts do not recommend you pat the top of its head). Do not stare at the dog’s eyes or it may take it as a challenge, as a crowded pet fair can be stressful.

• Do not bring pets that need a muzzle and choked collars. This goes without explanation: if they can’t play nice at home, they won’t be able to do so in public―least of all in the crowded venue a pet fair is going to be. Think of the children and small animals who attend those events; nobody wants to be the reason for a tragedy.

• Do not scream at your pet or kick, choke, or otherwise hurt it to discipline it. I saw one owner subduing her dog at a fair in Centris by kicking it repeatedly. His offense? Barking at other dogs―a natural social behavior that should not be punished! Your dog is likely to be excited by the sights, sounds, and smells of a fair, and may be harder to discipline. Cruelty simply proves you are unworthy of being a pet owner and that you do not have the intelligence to discipline your pet otherwise. Incidentally, Dog Coach Francis advocates against such methods, because they are always counterproductive and may end up instilling the wrong behavior in your pet.

Things No One Tells You About

• Never go to a pet fair alone with your pet if you’re also bringing a child―or children. You can’t keep an eye on both of them, and even if you coach your kids on how to approach other people’s pets, accidents may happen. Be sure there is someone to be with your kid or kids as well.

• Female pets should not be in heat; if they are, don’t bring them to a pet fair as they will excite and upset other pets.

• Resist the urge to buy everything or to adopt on impulse. If you’re going to a pet fair, be clear about why you’re there so that you don’t get sidetracked. Of course, impulse purchases do happen, but it is not recommended that you adopt or buy an animal on impulse. Know why you want the dog or cat, and be prepared for the responsibilities that go with being a pet owner.

• Most importantly, Karla Kangleon urges, you and your pet must have fun!

This appeared as “Make Pet Fairs Fun” in Animal Scene’s June 2015 issue.