August 14, 2008: By Kaylee Porter of NewWest

If you have a pet, want a pet or would just like to see dozens of bandana clad wiener dogs racing, Caras Park in downtown Missoula is the place to be this Saturday.

That’s where the 3rd annual Pet Fest, Western Montana’s largest pet showcase and adoption event will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., featuring pet product vendors, other exhibits, animal rescues and shelters, entertainment and contests.

For those looking to adopt a pet, 10 shelters and rescues from around the state will have their animals at the event. This includes Western Montana humane societies, Montana’s Parrot and Exotic Bird Sanctuary and Great Pyrenees and Great Dane rescues. There will be a parade of adoptable pets at 11:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.

“You get to spend some time with the animals. It’s a different environment than going to the shelter, where the dogs are all barking and scared. At Pet Fest the animals are taken out and walked around so they can act more like themselves,” says Linda Baumann, owner of Marketplace Media, the group that organizes Pet Fest.

Some shelters allow the animals to be taken that day, while others require you fill out paper work and pick the animal up from the shelter, Baumann says. Adoption fees still apply to pets adopted at Pet Fest.

“There are so many unwanted animals that are euthanized,” Baumann says. “There are hundreds if not thousands of these perfect pets out there who are just waiting for homes and you can find a whole bunch of those on Saturday all in one place.”

Baumann estimates that Pet Fest helped over 40 animals find homes last year.

If you already have a pet, you can bring them to Pet Fest provided they are on a leash and follow the rules. You can enter them in one of the many contests, including best-dressed pet, biggest dog, smallest dog, best pet trick or the ever-popular wiener dog race. Winners of the contests receive prizes donated by Pet Fest vendors.

Bauman says last year’s best-dressed pet contest included dogs, cats, a rat and even an iguana.

Because the wiener dog race had such a large turnout last year, Baumann broke contestants down into three age categories, which will race throughout the day.

“The best thing about Pet Fest is the wiener races,” Baumann says. “They are hilarious. Last year we had almost 50 wiener dogs that entered, so this we split it up into three categories.”

The wide variety of vendors at the event will also be of interest to pet owners, Baumann say. There will be over 40 exhibits, including retailers, groomers, vets, breed clubs, pet boarding and pet photographers.

“We have dog food manufacturers and vendors. There’s a lot of natural pet food, so we have a lot of things you don’t normally find in a store,” Baumann says.

But Pet Fest also has things for people who don’t have or want a pet at the moment. El Cazador, Thai Spicy, Kadena’s, and hot dog and brat vendor Go Dog Go will sell food at the event. You can also check out dog agility demonstrations and Evan Disney’s magic show or visit the chiropractor exhibit.

Pet Fest if free to the public, but visitors are strongly encouraged to bring a donation of pet food, which will be given to AniMeals, a group that helps provide food to animal shelters and rescues, the pets of the homebound and disabled, and other needy animals. Pet Fest has supplied almost 5,000 pounds of pet food to AniMeals in the last two years.

“The purpose of Pet Fest is to educated people about responsible pet ownership through an entertainment event,” Baumann says.

For more information about Pet Fest check out their website or call (406) 203-4200.