Top 5 Florida Dog Events

    By Saundra Amrhein

    When you’re vacationing in Florida with the family and Fido – after days romping at the dog beaches and dog parks, clipping through dog-friendly hikes and being pampered together at pet-friendly resorts – there’s still plenty more to do.

    You can find Florida dog events all year round. Whether you’re up for dog shows, dog parades or charity walks, you can plan your trip around any number of dog-centered activities – both for fun and a good cause.

    Here are some popular dog events in Florida.

    1. Southeastern Guide Dogs Walkathon

    Every winter and spring this nonprofit organization that pairs highly trained guide dogs with visually impaired people holds a family- and dog-friendly walkathon fundraiser in up to seven locations throughout Florida. Those locations have included Bradenton, Fort Myers, Orlando, Sarasota, Tampa, St. Petersburg, and The Villages. The events include music, food, games, shopping and other family-friendly activities. For more information, dates and locations.

    2. Walk for the Animals, Miami

    Just about every major city and metropolitan area in Florida has its own independent Humane Society nonprofit organization and annual fundraising walks that are family and dog-friendly. The annual one-mile Walk for the Animals at Bayfront Park in downtown Miami benefits the Humane Society of Greater Miami. Teams can include individuals alone or with their dogs or the entire family pack. Participants can also walk without having raised funds first and contribute with a registration fee. Past events have been held in February and included vendors, entertainment, an adoption arena and pet-person look-alike contests. For more information.

    3. Florida Classic Clusters Winter Dog Shows, Brooksville

    Considered the largest American Kennel Club-sanctioned event in Florida, this annual all-breeds show is typically held every January at the 50-acre Florida Classic Park on Lockhart Road east of Brooksville. In the past the two-week event, sponsored by member clubs from Clearwater, Inverness, and Tampa Bay, and Manatee and Pasco counties, has drawn about 1,500 entries from across the country, with 160 breeds represented. The event includes workshops and seminars, food courts and a “fun zone” obstacle course for visitors and their dogs who are not participating in the show. Admission is free and parking is $5 per vehicle. For more information.

    4. Mardi Gras on Mainstreet Dog Parade, Deland

    Every spring, this city southwest of Daytona Beach shuts down its main thoroughfare for an extravagant parade starring costumed dogs, as well as floats, marching bands and convertibles. It's one of the best Florida dog events. The sponsor, nonprofit Krewe of Amalee, donates proceeds to local charities. More than 30,000 people have attended the event in Deland in the past. The parade is followed by a Mardi Gras Festival that features music, dancing, dog races and activities for kids. For more information.

    5. Key West Dachshund Walk

    This annual New Year’s Eve Walk – which features both the short-legged, long-bodied dog variety as well as other breeds – kicks off end-of-the-year celebrations in Key West, the nation’s southernmost city, with this procession in the historic Old Town. Almost 200 dogs participate, many decked out in outlandish costumes. Organizers request donations of cat or dog food for the local Community Pet Pantry. Later into the evening, amid live entertainment, thousands of two-legged revelers congregate to watch one of four takeoffs of New York City’s Times Square Ball Drop. They include female impersonator Sushi descending on a supersized red high heel shoe; the lowering of an enormous manmade conch shell; a pirate wench dropped from a ship’s mast; and the splashdown of a Key lime wedge replica into a massive margarita glass. For more information.

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