Hundreds of dogs were yelping and jumping as their owners mingled, but a fun event in City Park on Sunday had a serious side.
The theme of this year's Paws for a Cause fundraiser was to end cruelty to animals, a consistent problem in the Central Okanagan. The local SPCA branch received over 500 reports of animal abuse, neglect or cruelty last year, making it one of the busiest in the province.
Branch manager Suzanne Pugh considers the high complaint count a good thing.
"Maybe the public are more vigilant, which is great," she said. "Not all complaints mean there was cruelty, neglect or abuse."
A special officer based in Kelowna investigates whenever someone lodges a grievance. It may be a landlord reporting a tenant who abandoned his dog or cat. A neighbour might accuse an owner of not providing medical treatment to a pet that's seriously ill.
Sometimes a cat or dog gets caught in a homemade leg-hold trap downtown. A resident might be angry about a raccoon and a domestic animal gets injured instead.
"It's barbaric for any animal to be caught in a trap," Pugh said.
A common problem each summer is what officers call hot dogs: an owner leaves his pooch in a car on a hot day or in a back yard without shade. Officers have the right to break a car window to remove an overheated dog if they feel it's in critical distress.
A Jack Russell terrier was left in a vehicle for five hours in 32-degree weather in Kelowna last year. By the time the owner returned to the car, the dog was dead, said Kathy Woodward, senior animal-protection officer for the Southern Interior.
"It happens very quickly in the temperatures we get here. It can be 20 degrees hotter in a vehicle than it is outside," she said. "Dogs cool through the pads in their feet and the interior of the car is very hot."
Owners convicted of animal cruelty can go to jail but it seldom happens. A Lake Country man refused to get medical treatment for a dog that broke its shoulder and leg when hit by a car. He pleaded guilty and was fined $500.
"Unfortunately, it was in the form of a donation, which means he gets a tax-deductible receipt. So we weren't really happy with that outcome," said Woodward.
Despite the theme of Sunday's walk, the mood was buoyant as owners ambled along the downtown boardwalk and participated in entertaining events.
The RCMP's canine unit demonstrated the tackling abilities of police dogs on Const. Lacy Browning, who's training to be a dog handler.
Browning dressed in an oversize bite suit and ran around on the grass until German shepherds took turns biting her arm and pulling her down. Samson dragged her on the ground with such force that Browning's head disappeared inside the suit.
"It's fun because I know the dog is off-duty as well. They're being goofy guys who like to play," she said.
Four hundred people joined the event, which raised just over $80,000. The money stays in Kelowna and goes toward preparing animals for a chance at a second home, said Pugh.