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Weekend expo brings pets to center stage, offers activities for owners and pets alike

Lauren Weitz / Lantern reporter

Dog lovers and cat lovers have their differences, but both types of animal lovers were present at the All American Pet Expo to show some dedication to their furry companions.

The 19th annual All American Pet Expo hit the Ohio Expo Center  Friday through Sunday, drawing in thousands of pets and their owners to the show. The expo featured multiple pet item vendors, interactive seminars and contests for pets and their owners, as well as many pets up for adoption.

“(Dogs) can experiment with learning how to dock dive off a 40-foot dock into a 40-foot pool, they also can be in the ‘dress up your pet’ contest,” said show founder and media director Steve Cantin. “The pets can come and just meet other pets, which pets are definitely doing out there.”

Even though a lot of the activities were aimed at dogs, the pet expo welcomed a wide variety of pets and animal lovers with Cat World, Reptile World, Llama World, Aquatic World, Horse World and Bird World, all located inside the Expo Center. 

In the past, the show was held at the Ohio Expo Center before being relocated to Veterans Memorial, and then back to the Ohio Expo Center this year.

“We’ve had it at the Vets Memorial for the past four or five years and before it was here,” Cantin said. “When it was here before we had up to 20,000 to 25,000 people.” 

Due to the larger venue space at the Ohio Expo Center, Cantin was able to add in many new features to the 2013 show, including many different types of animals as well as the 40-foot dock and pool for competitive dog jumping.

“We were able to bring back the llamas. We didn’t have Horse World (at the Veterans Memorial), now we have Horse World. You can even learn how to horseback ride here which is pretty neat,” Cantin said. 

In light of the YouTube dance sensation, the “Harlem Shake,” Cantin organized a “Howl-N-Shake,” which took place multiple times throughout the weekend. 

“It’s really exciting,” Cantin said. “We get all the people out there that are in the auditorium involved and get them all dancing, having fun.”

One main goal of the expo was to support pet rescues with the help of the Mega Pet Adoption Event, which took place inside the expo and was sponsored by PetSmart Charities.

“Our goal this year is 500 (rescues). It’s an accumulated total from all of the efforts of the show because we don’t let people just take a pet and run out with it,” Cantin said. “The rescue groups don’t want to do that because they don’t want people to be adopting on impulse.”

Shirley Lappert, who lives in Delaware, Ohio, has been to the pet expo since the show began. Lappert sells donated items that help raise money for The Canine Collective, a nonprofit organization that finds homes for rescue pets and helps pay for their veterinary bills. 

“The expo is great exposure for the group, the animals and educating the public,” Lappert said. “Our volunteers make handmade items out of recycled materials and then they donate them to the rescue and sometimes they donate their time.”

Lappert said she has been helping rescue animals for more than 20 years and got started because of the large number of pets without homes.

“I just saw the need for it,” Lappert said. “There are so many dogs out there that were not getting adopted because they were getting euthanized, they didn’t get a chance.”

Cantin said putting on the show year after year requires a lot of work and money, but he still loves to do it. 

“It’s the 90-10 factor. I do 90 percent of my work for 10 percent of my revenue. That’s what this is, so maybe it’s because I’m insane,” Cantin said. “But really it’s just the point of helping the community and helping rescues.”

Natalie Freshour, a resident of Columbus, brought her Great Dane, Frankie, and two foster dogs to the expo on Saturday. Freshour came to the expo last year, and came back for more shopping this year, as well as to bring exposure to the foster dogs.

“These two are fosters, they’re up for adoption and Frank is a special-needs dog and he needs more socialization, so I bring him with me whenever I can,” Freshour said. “I’ve always just loved dogs. I don’t even know how to explain it or why, but they’re better than people.”

Cantin has dedicated much of his life to the pet expo and to other projects in the pet industry, and said that he loves the vibe surrounding it.

“It’s really fun to get a bunch of people to come to a show and have fun,” Cantin said. “The neat thing about the pet industry is that everybody’s happy. This is like the celebration of the family pet.”

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