Venezia: Pet Expo is fun but rescue is at its core

On April 28-30 one of my favorite events comes to the OC Fair and Event Center: America's Family Pet Expo.

Billed as the "World's largest pet and pet products expo," the annual event is produced by World Pet Assn. Inc., a 65-year-old nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting responsible pet care.

Last year, nearly 40,000 folks attended, breaking previous records, organizers tell me. (Disclosure: My husband is a member of the Fair Board, which oversees the event venue).

With a tagline, "Fur to Feathers, Scales to Tails," the 2017 expo will feature returning attractions, as well as new surprises.

Back are fan favorites like the Splash Dogs, exotic birds and the petting zoo, as is the popular Cook's Racing Hogs & Dogs.

New attractions include the Catit Cat Activity Center (adoption and rare breeds) and Mini Horses.

The Orange County Turtle and Tortoise Club will allow guests to interact with Sulcata tortoises.

There's even a chicken coop exhibitor who'll give tips about getting into the hobby of raising "fancy breed chickens" for organic eggs.

Pet Expo has something for everyone.

There's Repticon, a reptile show and sale offering hundreds of common and rare species of reptiles.

If reptiles aren't your thing, there's always the Police Dog Demonstrations or the Aquatic Touch Tank.

This year, in advance of the expo, kids ages 5 to 16 can design and create entries that reflect their personalities or showcase their favorite hobby in the Kids Aquarium Contest.

Ten-gallon aquarium kits, complete with a filter, lighting, heater, thermometer and net, are donated and sponsored for each entrant by aquatic companies. See more at bit.ly/2nhzPoe.

And along those same lines there's the "Hobbyist Aquascaping" contest.

"This new feature will consist of intermediate-to-advanced aquariasts in a competition to create the most appealing natural aquarium," says publicist Jennifer Petro Becker.

Using a variety of live plants and other natural decorations, participants will create miniature underwater jungles.

Pet Expo attendees can watch the process of setting up a fully functional, planted aquarium from 10 a.m. April 28 to noon April 29. Ribbons and cash prizes will be awarded to the top three aquascapers at 5 p.m. April 29.

Of course the most important aspects of the expo for me are the pet adoptions.

With booths set up by local shelters and animal rescue organizations, more than 500 pets found forever homes last year. An estimated 10,000 pets have been adopted over the life of the event.

The Newport Beach Animal Shelter will have a booth with dogs, cats and hopefully a few kittens looking for homes, says NBPD animal control officer Valerie Schomburg.

Speaking of the shelter , there's a nonprofit organization, Friends of the Newport Beach Animal Shelter, forming in town that's intent on raising money for augmented healthcare to make animals more adoptable, as well as pay for shelter needs the city can't.

I'll keep you posted as more develops. I plan on supporting their efforts.

Pet adoption is an issue close to my heart.I adopted Stasha, "The Wonder Dog," a Chihuahua Lab mix, at the 2012 Pet Expo. She was just 5 months old at the time.

Stasha and the rest of her littermates had been found on the side of a road; their mom was killed by car. A Riverside shelter rescued and brought them to Pet Expo hoping to find their "fur-ever" homes.

Over the years, Stasha and I have had many adventures. She's even followed in my footsteps, becoming Newport's only canine (albeit pseudonymous) "columnist" on the Stu News website and archived on my website, bvontv.com. Stasha barks about all things dog related, though I have to type for her since she doesn't have thumbs.

Kidding aside, I can't imagine life without this little fur ball. Each year I write about the expo I hear from readers who attended the event because of the column and adopted a pet as a result, and that warms my heart.

Pet Expo is great family fun, but if you go, you can't bring your own pet.

General admission is $15; seniors 60 and over, $13; children 6-12, $10; children 5 and under, free.

Active and retired military personnel get free admission with an identification. Show hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 28; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. April 29; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 30.

The fairgrounds are at 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa. Parking is $8. To purchase tickets online, visit bit.ly/2nhzPoe.

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at bvontv1@gmail.com.

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