SPCA Run for the Rescues helps abandoned animals

Adults, children and dogs start the 2014 “Run for the Rescues” on Saturday in Suwanee. (Photo: Robin Reuter)

Adults, children and dogs start the 2014 “Run for the Rescues” on Saturday in Suwanee. (Photo: Robin Reuter)

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A large crowd is seen at Suwanee Town Center after the “Run for the Rescues” 5k on Saturday. (Photo: Robin Reuter)

SUWANEE — It was a dog day in the Suwanee Town Square Park on Saturday morning as more than 1,000 residents gathered to “strut their mutt” and compete in the fourth annual SPCA Run for the Rescues 5K Race, Fun Run and Festival to raise money for abandoned animal care.

The 1-mile Fun Run for children started in the town square and the 5K Race started at the city library. The treks then wound their way throughout the area as residents ran with their dogs on leashes. The event raised more than $20,000 for the Georgia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

“We’re so thankful it’s not raining,” said race director Christine Muller. “We’ve had a fabulous turnout and we’re hoping to raise more than $25,000 for the SPCA. We’ve got the best runners in the world. … When we started in 2011, we were hoping to get 100 runners. But we let them run with their dogs and now we’ve got more than a thousand.

“And our vendors are wonderful,” she added. “It’s a great community event.”

Jane Stewart, executive director of the Georgia SPCA, said the money will be used to keep abandoned animals from being euthanized.

“The big challenge in our state has always been the euthanasia rate and the number of healthy adoptable dogs and cats euthanized because there’s no place to keep them,” Stewart said. “So our mission is to pull them out of animal control shelters, spay or neuter them and then care for them until we can find a perfect home.”

There were more than 60 vendors on hand with food, beverages, art and crafts. The live bands Fly Betty and Jabb played at the amphitheater in the square as B98.5 provided live radio broadcasts. And there were well-behaved dogs of every breed imaginable, from beagles to poodles to Labrador retrievers and mixed breeds. Some of the canines were adorned with handkerchiefs wrapped around their necks. One boxer wore a tutu.

Kate Hale of Alpharetta struggled to hold her great dane, Ruby Tuesday, in tow as they approached the town square.

“We came out today for the exercise and to socialize,” said Hale. “I’m sure Ruby will get along with the other dogs. I just hope that I can too.”

Since October, runners have paid $25 to register for the 5K Race and $15 for the Fun Run. Ryan and Jennifer Harcher of Atlanta arrived with their two mixed breed pets to support the SPCA.

“We rescued both of our dogs from an animal shelter and thought this was a good cause,” said Jennifer Harcher.

And many set up web pages to garner sponsorships to raise money. Two runners, Jack and his fiancee Jane, ran along with 60 other participants sponsored by Jack’s employer, Cadillac Jack in Duluth. The couple was accompanied by Rio, their English Staffordshire Terrier Bull.

“Any worker who could bring along their spouse, significant other or kids and their dogs were welcome to come along,” Jack said of the employer sponsored runners. “We’ve run in a number of 5K races but this is our first for the SPCA.”

Suwanee veterinarian Margo Golden said Saturday’s event was her third Run for the Rescues. She was accompanied by her “training partner,” a wire-haired terrier named Emmy Lou. “We’re here for the running and for the animals,” she said.

Sugar Hill City Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Marc Cohen and his wife, Marie, were staffing an SPCA registration booth for more than 100 late race participants. He had a large stack of collected money and several pages of signed registrations.

“We’re here to support a great cause for the animals because we’re a no-kill shelter and that’s important for this area,” said Cohen who serves on the SPCA Board of Directors. “And we’re going to try to expand the race and do something in Sugar Hill down the road because the SPCA is for all of Georgia and not just for a particular region or community.”

There was a dog Frisbee contest and inflatable play stations for children. And at noon on the Town Center stage there was a competition for the tallest and shortest dog and the dog with the longest tail and longest ears. There was also a competition for the best dog trick and one for the owner who looked the most like their pet.

Many of the vendors appeared to be doing a brisk business. Amber Lawrence, manager of PetSmart in Flowery Branch, said this was their first SPCA event in Suwanee but they will return.

“We’re having a great time” said Lawrence. “There’s a ton of people, it’s a lot of fun and everybody’s happy to be here. … And there’s a lot of happy dogs.”

It was also a family outing. A runner named Rajeeva brought her 12-year old son Adi. They did not bring a dog but came for the exercise.

“I do martial arts training,” Adi noted, “so we have to do a lot of runs for that.”

And another runner, Olga, competed with her 7-year-old daughter, Katherine, 7, and their Boxer, Duke.

“We’re here because it’s for a good cause,” Olga said, “and it’s a wonderful family event.”