South Hills churches sponsor pet adoption fair

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Billed as the largest such event in Western Pennsylvania, the Pet Care and Adoption Fair this month in Bethel Park is the perfect place to look for a pet companion.

The event, now in its 11th year, has brought in as many as 40 animal rescue groups and local animal shelters from the region to showcase everything from Great Pyrenees to small shih-tzus, kitten and cats — even the occasional gerbil or lizard.

Sponsored by Hearts and Paws Pet Ministry of Christ United Methodist Church and Westminster Presbyterian Church’s Pet Ministry, the free fair will run from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. June 21 at Christ United Methodist, 44 Highland Road.. 

“Because the ministry doesn’t have a kennel license, attendees will be able to fill out an application for a pet but won’t be able to take the animal home with them," event chairman Joe Hirsch of Scott said. "They’ll either have to pick the pet up at the rescue agency or have it delivered. Even so, last year we had 60 animals adopted.’’

Costs vary for the animals, which all have mandatory shots and have been examined by professionals.

While the rescue agencies get free admission to the fair, the event is subsidized by the 20 animal-related product and service vendors who attend the event, which is the signature fundraiser for Hearts and Paws Pet Ministry.

Some of this year’s vendors include Pittsburgh Pet Connection Magazine, the Bethel Park and Bridgeville Animal Clinics, pet walking and sitting services and Asti’s Pharmacy of Mt. Lebanon, where a certified veterinarian pharmacist is available to compound veterinary medicines.

Melissa Haas of Brookline, a children’s book author, will also offer her book "Catula — The Misadventures of Dracula’s Cat" for purchase.

Popular booths include face painting; pony rides by Save a Horse of Sycamore, a horse rescue agency; canine training and agility demonstrations by the Keystone Canine Training Club of Baldwin; and Ask the Vet, where attendees can ask a veterinarian questions about pet care and health.

"We encourage people to bring along their pets, but dogs must be well behaved and tethered on a leash," Mr. Hirsch said.

The ministry will sell food items such as pizza and chicken sandwiches, and Keener’s Just Nuts will sell everything from vegan and vegetarian meals to halushki, homemade pierogies, homemade kielbasa and kraut sandwiches, hot dogs, cinnamon-roasted nuts and salsa and chips.

The fair started 11 years ago at the suggestion of Sue Irwin, the director of the children’s ministry, who had seen the concept of a pet ministry at another church.

"We were one of the first pet ministries in the nation and have gotten calls from as far away as Canada and Australia asking for advice on how to start a pet ministry," Mr. Hirsch said.

Hearts and Paws provides pet food and veterinary care to those who have fallen on hard times and one-on-one grief support to those who have lost pets and assistance to those who are struggling with difficult decisions regarding pet care.

"We don’t have a means test for those who need help, and [we] continue to provide pet food for as long as someone might need it," Mr. Hirsch said. "Even if someone is battling cancer and lives in a mansion in Upper St. Clair we would still provide pet food because that would be one less thing they’d have to worry about."

The ministry also funds rabies vaccination clinics and helps with emergency veterinarian care for those unable to pay for it. As part of its educational programming, some of which is also offered at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Upper St. Clair, the Hearts and Paws Pet Ministry brings in animals to its children’s program and the adult day care center at the church.

At the moment, the ministry is working on a course for its education program that will explain pet care issues, such as choosing the best pet food, what to look for in a pet to identify problems and alternative, holistic treatments for pet ailments.


Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer:

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