Family pawz fest bring four legged visitors to the Arboretum

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Crosby Arboretum was full of furry, feathered and scaly visitors Saturday for the second annual Family Pawz Fest.

The event raises funds for the Arboretum and area animal shelters and rescues.

The Pearl River County SPCA brought cats and puppies in the hopes that they could adopt out animals. At least one beagle was adopted during the event, said volunteer cat cuddler Holly Zacharis. The event is a wonderful opportunity for the shelter, said Zacharis.

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“I love it, because of all the animals and hiking in the woods,” said 8-year-old SPCA volunteer Rebecca Petersen.

Animal Adoption Society, Inc., a non-profit no-kill animal rescue group, came to the event for the first time, said volunteer Suzette Serio. AAS only brought one dog, because of the heat, Serio said, but the event gave the group a good opportunity to fundraise.

Around midday, dogs strutted their stuff in a fashion show. Kyleigh Kutterhoff’s dog Topanga took best dressed for its Chief Pang Pang costume. Jacquelyn Scnwarzenbach’s rescue dog Belle won most creative dressed as Miss Liberty Belle. A pair of Mickey and Minnie Mouse look-a-likes, Debbie Rowell’s miniature schnauzer’s Rylee and Maggie, took the title for funniest costume. Appropriately, a dog dressed as Santa won best behaved.

Dog owner Bobbie Kutterhoff dressed as a devil to coordinate with her dog Tess’s angel costume. Kutterhoff said she dresses her dogs up and takes them to events any time she can. Kutterhoff said her family returned for the second year because the event is a good opportunity to socialize their dogs.

Dogs and cats were not the only animal visitors. Whisper of Hope, a wildlife rescue that focuses on educating the public, brought snakes, turtles, owls and a crow.

Mike Sternberg with Whisper of Hope, held an Eastern screech owl, as he explained to passersby that screech owls do not actually screech. The rescue’s box turtles Anna and Elsa transfixed kids. Box turtles live their lives in a one-mile radius, and if they are removed from their home they will spend the rest of their lives trying to get back to it, Sternberg said.

Volunteers Elizabeth Petersen and Caitlin Palmer educated attendees on the hazards of releasing non-native snakes into the wild, by featuring a rescued corn snake and boa constrictor.

“What do y’all think of my boa?” Palmer joked, with the snake draped across her shoulders.

Jamie Pope with Whisper of Hope said some non-native snakes starve, because they do not know how to survive in the area.

State Senator Angela Burks Hill came to the event to speak with animal rescue groups. Hill said she wanted to let the rescue groups know that she is continuing work to strengthen the Dog and Cat Protection Act, which was passed in 2011.

Currently in Mississippi, law enforcement can only charge a misdemeanor for a first offense of aggravated animal cruelty, Hill said.

“They can only charge one misdemeanor count even if it’s heinous aggravated torture,” Hill said.

Law enforcement cannot charge a felony unless the person has already been convicted twice, she said, and are only able to charge one count of animal cruelty no matter how many animals were involved.