More than 100 dogs and their families took to the Railway Trail yesterday as part of the 20th Annual Paws to the Park walk.

The fundraising event, organised by the SPCA, provides an opportunity for dogs to socialise.

Interim executive director Deborah Titterton-Narraway said it enables dogs of all breeds to come to what she described as “neutral ground”, away from common walking areas like the Botanical Gardens, which can cause the animals to feel territorial or intimidated.

The event also gives the charity an opportunity to educate dog owners and to get to know the dogs and their masters.

Mrs Titterton-Narraway said the event draws an interesting cross section of dog lovers, from trainers to first-time owners and, for the first time, the SPCA brought three of their eight shelter dogs to mingle with the other canines.

These are dogs who have spent their lives on a leash and she said she was pleasantly surprised when they had no trouble joining the other pups for a long walk.

“Ideally, we would like to bring them all down,” she told The Royal Gazette, explaining that there are added challenges that may prevent them from socialising in environments where there may be small children. She also hoped that their presence would highlight the need for volunteers.

Ms Titterton-Narraway said: “It’s not a huge moneymaking event. It’s more about the animals and the welfare of the animals.”

She said the day also highlights the importance of dog walking. “It calms the mind and it’s good for the body,” she said, motioning towards the contented animals after their jaunt.

“It was bedlam at the start,” she said.

Stephanie Lewis-Pullen has been coming for three years, but this is her first time participating with her own pet. Her French Bulldog Brie is six months old and the two-and-a-half mile track is her longest amble to date.

“We weren’t sure if she was going to survive,” Mrs Lewis-Pullen said, adding: “At 20 pounds, nobody wanted to carry her.”

Jarita Bassett, of wholesale distributors Bermuda General Agency, was representing Purina brand dog food and had sponsored a photo booth for the event.

The marketing manager said: “Dogs are definitely part of the family nowadays — they go everywhere.”

Tellingly, she said, of the sample giveaways included in their stall, the dog back massagers had proven to be very popular.

By Nadia Hall The Royal Gazette