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Free to See: 10 U.S. Pet Events

Heading out? Don't leave Fido (or Fifi) at home. Here's a list of ten free petcentric events and activities. Sponsored by Toyota Venza

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Basset hounds and their friends strut their stuff at the annual BoardWaddle in Ocean City, New Jersey.

Florida Classic Cluster of Dog Shows

Tampa Bay, Florida

Five different kennel clubs host this series of shows that bills itself as Florida's largest dog show, boasting more than 18,000 entries! Admission is free on some January dates for all-breed shows, obedience trials, and rally trials. Visitors are also welcome to go behind the scenes, meet handlers, and take free tours.

Basset Hound BoardWaddle

Ocean City, New Jersey

This seaside event features more than 500 basset hounds trotting along the Boardwalk and Asbury Avenue as part of Ocean City's annual April Doo Dah Parade, led by luminaries like Meadowlark Lemon. The waddle is preceded by the BoardWaddle Basset Olympics (yes, there is a high jump) and followed by a picnic. The fun event is free for spectators and participants, but walkers are asked to collect pledges to benefit the Tri-State Basset Hound Rescue.

Cat Shows

Various Locations

You've probably heard of the famous Westminster Kennel Club dog show—but have you ever seen cats compete in everything from breed standards to feline agility? Chances are you can see it in person, in a city near you, during one of the many cat shows held under the auspices of the Cat Fanciers' Association—the world's largest registry of pedigreed cats.

St. Louis Pet Expo

St. Louis, Missouri

This October pet-a-palooza is free for you and your furry friends. Prizes, free demonstrations of obedience and agility, free nail trims, and even a costume contest are all part of the fun—and adoption groups are on hand, so you might just come home with a new family member. Similar pet expos are held across the country from New England to Atlanta to Anchorage; see a schedule on the St. Louis Pet Expo website.


Outer Banks, North Carolina

North Carolina's Outer Banks are a paradise for beach lovers, particularly those who want to bring their four-legged friends along. Crystal Coast towns in the south and northern communities like Duck all allow leashed dogs on the beaches year-round and may offer off-season opportunities for canines to run free by the sea.

Blessing of the Animals

New York, New York

Take your pet to church—to one of the world's largest cathedrals in fact—for the annual blessing of the animals at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in Manhattan. Each fall, in celebration of St. Francis Day, the pews are filled with pets of all stripes, which are joined by more exotic beasts like yaks. Clergy bless individual pets after the service.


Westfield, Massachusetts

Hosted by the PoundHounds, this event kicks off the fall season in style. Take your dog on a group walk or enter one of the contests: Categories include best booty wiggle and best dog-owner look-a-likes. And for an extra fee you can pamper your pet with Reiki sessions! Proceeds from such extras go to help care for the “invisible” dogs in town pounds.

Take Your Dog to Work Day

This event started in 1999 and ever since it has been picking up steam around the world. Pet Sitters International asks pet lovers to celebrate the ancient working bond between humans and canines by bringing their best friends to the workplace on one special day per year. The goal is to have fun—and to promote the adoption of shelter dogs everywhere.

The Colorado Fall Charity Horse Show

Denver, Colorado

This annual event is in its fifth decade, and admission is still absolutely free. Arabians, pintos, quarter horses, and many others strut their stuff, and attendees can visit the stables to meet horses, trainers, and riders in person. The show, which takes place at Denver’s National Western Complex in September, benefits Rocky Mountain Horse Rescue.

Dog Beaches

San Diego, California

Sunny San Diego: a blue-sky destination for your furry friends. The city boasts several beaches where dogs are allowed off-leash, including Fiesta Island, Ocean Beach on Voltaire Street, and the North Beach Dog Run in Coronado. See the city’s website for additional options.

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