Landess Witmer poses with her own three dogs.
Landess Witmer poses with her own three dogs.

If you’re looking for an Artown event that your furry friend can also attend, Art Paws is a perfect match. Art Paws is the only Artown event that allows pets as well as humans.

“Three years ago they outlawed bringing your own alcohol and bringing your own dog to Artown events for liabilities, especially drinking dogs,” said host of Art Paws Landess Witmer. “So we really stand out now because we also do animal rescue at our event, but we also cater it to people coming with their dogs. The biggest thing is our contests. People go crazy for our contests.”

Witmer described herself as a “pet person,” with three dogs, a cat, several horses and fish of her own, and hosts this day as a day for the pets.

“I generally get down on the ground and down on my knees, and dogs will walk up, and I’ll say, ’Hi. I’m so glad you came. This is your day,’” Witmer said. “And that’s how they feel. You can see it.”

Art Paws is meant as a place where owners can have a fun-filled day with their pets and help people remember how important their pets are.

“Today, in an environment where you’re having to cut back so much, it’s really nice to remind people how much they love their animals and how much fun their animals are,” Witmer said. “Because if they don’t, they can think they can cut back on their vet and the food and the pet waste. No. That’s an intricate part of your family, and here’s a day to celebrate that.”

The festival will include free paw painting art projects for owners to complete with their pets. The Girl Scouts will help paint pets’ paws to walk on paper so that owners can take home a masterpiece created by their pooch. The contest categories this year will include biggest/smallest pet head, parent/owner and pet lookalike, most unique trick, best superhero costume and twins/triplets/quads—for identical pets of two or more.

The festival in its entirety is a fundraiser for local pet-related nonprofit organizations. All the proceeds go in a pot that is divided equally between the three top pet-related nonprofit organizations as decided by a vote from attendees of Art Paws.

“In past years, we’ve funded the Animal Ark, we’ve funded the SPCA, Boxers and Buddies, which is the third most active rescue, only third to the SPCA and the Humane Society,” Witmer said. “U.S. Wolf Refuge is here located in Nevada, which is really cool because they are known throughout the United States, and they’ve garnered our top votes three years in a row. And Feline Rescue of Northern Nevada won the past two years.”

Part of the funds donated to these organizations comes from the wine and beer tasting that starts at noon. $25 gets you a wine glass with unlimited tastings for the day, and $5 gets you three beer tastings or one large beer. And from 2 to 5 p.m. The Smokin’ Bulldogs will be performing in the park for all Art Paws-goers to enjoy during their wine and beer tasting and pursuing with their pups.

Funds are also raised through raffles that take place every half hour and a large silent auction with prizes such as 500 square feet of sod or a dinner and night stay at the Eldorado.

Many of the nonprofit organizations will be at the event, campaigning for votes or giving out freebies. The first 500 people into Art Paws will receive “doggie bags” donated by Whole Foods and filled with different toys and treats for humans and dogs alike. These bags will also serve as bags to hold any freebies received throughout the event, so if you’re not in the first 500 people Witmer suggests you bring your own bag to gather all the goodies.

In addition to the freebies given out by the 80 to 100 vendors at the event, there will be a demonstration by the Washoe County K9 Unit and Hollywood animal trainer, Joel Silverman will be in attendance to talk to people about training their pets.

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