Published: Tuesday, May 12, 2009
By Jameson Cook, Macomb Daily Staff Writer
The loss of a location didn’t deter Pet-A-Palooza director Joe Sowerby from conducting the 2009 version of the second largest pet-adoption event in the country.
The ninth-annual Pet-A-Palooza, previously held for several years at Freedom Hill County Park, will take place Aug. 1-2 in the expansive parking lot of the Palace of Auburn Hills, in tandem with the Detroit Shock’s Dog Day of Summer.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to be moving to the Palace of Auburn Hills,” Sowerby said Monday after finalizing the deal Friday. “You know how they say one window closes and a door opens.
In this case, a double-wide door opened.”
Thousands of people, many of them toting pets, attend Pet-A-Palooza, which features more than 1,000 animals, mostly dogs and cats, available for adoption as well as many other pet-related activities and exhibits. Between 500 and 600 animals have been adopted each of the last few years.
Sowerby was upset earlier this year when Macomb County officials reiterated their decision of last September to cancel all events (except amphitheater concerts) at the Sterling Heights park due to budget issues because each event costs the county $12,000. Sowerby and organizers of some other events proposed they conduct their events at no cost to the county, but officials said they didn’t want to discriminate.
“I truly wanted to keep it in Macomb County but the commissioners wouldn’t allow it,” Sowerby said.
Sowerby said he appreciates that several people offered other sites in the county, including multiple churches and municipalities.
“The outpouring of support was very touching,” Sowerby said. “It shows me that people really care about homeless animals.”
But those sites weren’t large enough, and Sowerby couldn’t pass up the highly visible and accessible Palace, located off Interstate-75 in Auburn Hills.
“I’m hoping we can grow the event,” he said. “Hopefully, this will give us a wider reach for adoption and save even more lives.”
Sowerby, through his organization, Hayes and Friends, connected with Kristine Bergandino of the Palace and Shock, and Marie Skladd of Metro Networks, and renewed his connection with Pet Supplies “Plus” to create a new team.
Bergandino said Pet-A-Palooza is a natural fit with the Shock women’s basketball team’s Dog Day of Summer, which has been held the past three years. It allows dog owners to bring their pet to a game and enjoy related events outside.
“It made so much sense to put these together,” she said. “We are the first professional sports team to allow dogs into a game. … Hopefully we can get to 1,000 (adoptions).”
The Dog Day game against he Connecticut Sun will be 6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2, and Bergandino said some of the Shock players likely will be involved on Saturday and/or Sunday. Last year, several Shock players attended, including dog owners Deanna Nolan and Katie Smith.
Metro Networks, a division of Westwood One, radio’s largest network, will participate as a marketing partner, said Skladd, Metro Networks national account manager. Skladd, a dog lover who also runs the Michigan Animal Adoption Network in Roseville, said the event will be promoted on the more than 20 radio stations in metropolitan Detroit where it provides weather forecasting.
“We think there’s wonderful synergy between the partners,” she said. “We hope we can breathe a lot of life into the event because out network stations’ reach. We’re hoping to reach a wider audience, reaching people who haven’t been reached in the past.”
Sowerby said he couldn’t imagine if the event had to be canceled since homeless animals remains a huge problem. Last year, 118,000 animals in Michigan were euthanized.
“With this economic climate, there’s more homeless animals than ever,” he said. “We need to ramp it up for the sake of homeless animals.”
Sowerby, a St. Clair Shores native, is a Chesterfield Township resident and partner in a Mount Clemens-based commercial real estate company.
Anyone who would like to participate as a vendor or partner can contact Sowerby at (586) 469-8888, Bergandino at (248) 375-4082 or Skladd at (248) 936-4460.