Pet Care Fair held for three years in the 1990s
By Anne Marshall Christner for the SAM Project
Bill Thorn, on the public relations staff at KRMA, was the originator of the Pet Care Fair. He was intrigued by Channel 9's annual Health Fair and wondered why the same theory couldn't be applied to animals, especially since so many were being euthanized each year because they had no home. Thorn's major concern was to educate pet owners to have their animals neutered, with an incentive of making the procedure relatively inexpensive.
He met with representatives of the Dumb Friends League, who liked the idea and agreed to help organize a committee of concerned animal lovers. It took approximately a year to get the idea off the ground, which involved hiring an events coordinator, an intern from the Dumb Friends.
The first Pet Care Fair was held on Saturday, August 4, 1990 at the University of Denver Soccer Field. The cooperating organizations included Channel Six, the Denver Dumb Friends League, the Morris Animal Foundation, the Denver Area Veterinary Medical Society and Hill's Science Diet, a pet food company, which provided funding of between $5,000 and $7,500.
Hill's Science Diet had successfully sponsored a Doggie Dash in the Seattle area and believed it would do well in Denver. The concept was to promote the Doggie Dash, a two-mile walk/run, as the means of getting animal lovers involved. Then, to give those folks a reason to hang around after the run, planners provided animal-oriented activities, entertainment, and information booths staffed by people who made their living catering to animals. A major thrust of the fair was to staff several veterinary booths and provide free animal exams; those whose animals were not neutered were to be given a coupon to have the animal fixed – free of charge if the person could not afford the fee.
The first Pet Care Fair was a major success and attracted thousands of "runners." The dash/fair was promoted in every medium possible, with promos produced by Channel Six and articles written by Thorn. Each runner registered, was given a specially designed T-shirt created by Sandy Blake of the Channel Six art department, and received a variety of free samples. The registration fee was $15. Nonprofit organizations were given booth space for $15, while for-profit groups were charged about $100.
The second and third Pet Care Fairs were also held the first Saturday in August, but the event was moved to Washington Park.
For the third Fair, Hills Science Diet was unable to provide the seed money, so Thorn talked to the people at the Harrison Animal Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing free pet neutering for the "poor." It provided $5,000 upfront and agreed to provide vets at the Fair.
At the meeting to plan the fourth annual Pet Care Fair, all participating organizations – except Channel Six – were dubious about the benefit of the Fair because the majority of those bringing their pets for an exam were:
- Relatively affluent
- Their animals already had been neutered
- The animals' major problem was being overweight!
Thus, planners agreed there had to be a better way to get to those who had animals that had not been neutered. They felt that the fair was a good idea and that the run was a great moneymaker, but it was not the way to go to encourage neutering of pets owned by non-runners who either could not afford to neuter their pets or did not care.
The Dumb Friends League decided to continue to have an annual run and invited Channel Six to join them. But since the League was not going to promote neutering of animals, station principals decided not to take part. The last Pet Care Fair in which Channel was involved was held in August 1992.
All photos in this article are courtesy of SAM and are from the 1992 Pet Care Fair.