Hundreds of dogs frolic Saturday at Steel City Pet Expo in Downtown Pittsburgh




A black and white dog ran in large circles around the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, barking and yipping excitedly as he chased three plastic bags. His behavior was applauded by the hundreds of people who came to the Steel City Pet Expo on Saturday. Many of them brought their dogs.

Mark and Marie McLure of Lower Burrell said Sparky, 2, “just loved” the “lure chasing” course set up in the middle of the expo. 

The course was surrounded by more than 80 booths, many of them run by volunteers from animal shelters and rescue groups. Vendors also included a wide array of people and companies that provide a wide variety of supplies and services for pets and the people who love them. Groomers, veterinarians and pet food companies were included, and many handed out free dog treats and other items. Rescues and shelters brought kittens, cats, puppies and dogs that were available for adoption.

The day-long event, free to the public and their pets, was put on by Amazing Expos, a St. Louis-based company that organizes pet expos all over the country. 

Visitors included hundreds of dogs in all shapes, sizes and colors, as well as at least one cat and one ferret. The cat walked at the end of a leash that was attached to a harness that fit over the dress the feline was wearing. A ferret named Quark arrived in a screened in pet stroller, but spent much of the time in the arms of his owner, Pat Andrews of Verona.

“Quark is very active and ferrets are very sociable so he really enjoys being out” at events, Ms. Andrews said. They stopped to visit staff at the Pittsburgh Spay & Vaccination Clinic, where the ferret has been a patient. Ms. Andrews said she named her pet “for, you know, sub-atomic particles, because Quark is so very active like they are.”  

The lure chasing event was new to most local expo visitors.

Dogs that compete in the sport of lure coursing are generally greyhounds, whippets and other “sight hounds” bred to run down rabbits and other prey. The Steel City “lure chasing” course was “just for fun” and for dogs of all breeds and mixes, said John Ritter of Swift Paws, which is based in Florida.

Mr. Ritter travels to expos all over the country, demonstrating his equipment, which is three plastic bags attached to thin lines that circled a large fenced area in the convention hall. A small engine moved the bags at varying speeds. People enjoyed watching dogs chase the lures, or in some cases, ignore the lures in favor of visiting with dogs and people that ringed the lure course.

Mr. Ritter said 30-40 rescue groups have used his equipment to put on fund-raisers that can bring in $500-$1,000 a day.

One of the top dogs of the lure chasing day was Henry, 6, a three-legged greyhound who ran the course with speed and enthusiasm unmatched by the other dogs. Sparky the pit bull mix barked at the greyhound, pulling on his leash as he tried to chase the lures again.

Henry‘‍s right rear leg was amputated last December after he was diagnosed with bone cancer, said owner Alicia Daerr of Greensburgh. Her family adopted Henry in 2010 after he retired from the race track. The loss of his leg has not stopped Henry from doing any of the things he loves, Ms. Daerr said.

Many of the dogs at the Expo were adopted from animal shelters, owners reported with pride. Sparky was adopted from the Animal Rescue League in Laramer.

Former greyhound racers Bobby Ja and Flyboy Greyhounds named Bobby Jo, 6, and Flyboy, 7,  walked sedately through the convention center, wagging tails as they met other dogs, including giant-but-gentle Great Danes named Rocco, 2, and his mother, Kiera, 5.

“I just had to get my Dane fix. I love Great Danes,” said Phyllis Shapiro of Monroeville, owner of the the brindle-patterned greyhounds that she adopted from a local rescue group, Steel City Greyhounds.

For the past month the Great Danes have been with South Hills Pet Resort near Finleyville, Washington County. The boarding facility also does rescue and rehabilitation, said Tricia Cole, who works there. 

“They were living in a small car with their mom who left an abusive relationship,” Ms. Cole said. “She didn’‍t want to give them up but realized that was no life for the dogs. We hope they will be adopted together because they are very attached to each other.”

A beagle-mix puppy named Clara attracted a lot of attention, as did five adult beagles who came with her. The dogs are with the Midwest BREW rescue group. the acronym stands for Beagle Rescue, Education and Welfare.

“We had a lot of interest and a lot of visits, but no adoption applications yet,” BREW President Elaine R. Taillon of Squire Hill said.

The group finds new homes for 200-250 beagles each year in six states, including Western Pennsylvania and Ohio.

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Linda Wilson Fuoco: lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-722-0087.

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