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IT’S the kind of pageant where the shaving of body hair is discouraged, the contestants may or may not hope for world peace, and the catwalk is closer to the real thing than you think.
Think waggling rather than strutting, and putting your best paw forward for the judges.
Cats and dogs battled it out… well… like cats and dogs at the annual SPCA Royal Canin Mutt and Meow of the Year competition, where SA’s premier dog and cat are crowned after six weeks of intense competition.
This year a rescued dog named Bear was selected as Mutt of the Year, and the Meow of the Year prize went to an adopted cat named Rabs.
Bear’s owner, Lee-Anne Curtis Cox, says it’s a dream come true.
“I want to have other people understand what you can get from the SPCA – really incredible dogs.”
Bear, who was adopted from the SPCA in 2002, also won the Pup of the Year Award in 2003.
Rabs’s owner, Carrie Rossouw, says her cat has brought her much joy. “People underestimate the value animals have in people’s lives,” she said.
The contest was given some star power with former Mutt of the Year, Oscar, the globetrotting dog, on the panel of judges, accompanied by Joanne Lefson.
The celebrity pooch was the 2004 winner of the Mutt of the Year competition and hasn’t looked back since.
Oscar has become a champion for dog adoption with his adopt-a-dog campaign that went countrywide this year. Lefson says his travelling show saw a spike in doggie adoptions.
Oscar was adopted by Lefson just before he was to be put down, and he had the same start as many of the Mutt and Meow of the Year contestants. He is now the poster-dog of adoptions for the SPCA, and travels the world to spread the message that it’s better to adopt than to buy from a breeder.
Another judge, Tarryn Day, said the panel was looking for “that extra special connection” between an owner and pet.
And that connection was certainly there for Rossouw’s husband and Meow of the Year, Rabs. He was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease when Rabs arrived at their home. The family eventually adopted her, and Rossouw said she provided so much comfort for the family.
Besides the grand prize winners, animal lovers donated online by voting for their favourites. The pet with the most votes will receive the Top Fundraising award as the “fan favourite”.
The competition ultimately raised more than R20 000.
While the typical pet competition rewards animals based on their pure-bred characteristics and pedigree, this competition celebrates all animals. It also raises awareness about abandoned and homeless animals.
For the past 15 years, the SPCA has sponsored the Mutt of the Year competition. This year the competition moved online, which allowed for many more participants. It’s also the first year of the “Meow of the Year” category.
Lefson said she was encouraged by how the number of adoptions had increased in recent years. About 1 000 animals are adopted from the SPCA every year. The numbers dropped off as a result of the economic slowdown, but are now increasing.
Sarah Scarth, the Cape of Good Hope SPCA communication and resource development manager, said: “In the past year we put a tremendous amount of effort into the campaign and increased adoptions by about 25 percent.”