The Pin Up Paws pet calendar is the largest annual fundraiser for the St. Augustine Humane Society, and 11 years since it started, raising awareness is still the main goal.
That was evident during a special promotional event for the contest at Palm Valley Outdoors Bar and Grill.
According to St. Augustine Humane Society Operations Manager Jeannie McLain, it is important to never lose the reason for why the calendar exists. That mission is to keep pets in their homes for life.
“Inside every calendar is our mission statement and that’s super important,” McLain said. “The dogs and the cats are precise, but what really matters is the mission.”
To fulfill the ultimate goal, the Humane Society uses unique and thoughtful methods that go beyond the adoption process.
“We’ve decided you can’t adopt your way out of overpopulation, so it’s best to provide services that decrease the surplus population, such as providing low-cost spay and neuter and our low-cost veterinary clinic.”
Other services include a pet food pantry, where McLain said, “food is flying off the shelves” and providing tips from dog trainers.
“Anything that it takes to keep your pet in your home is what we want for you,” McLain said.
This year’s theme is “Paws across America,” which means that a famous national landmark or destination will be the backdrop behind each featured pet.
“We watched our country go through so much last year that we decided to celebrate it this year in our own special way,” McLain said.
The calendar began with the theme “Vintage St. Augustine” and coincided with the Humane Society breaking away from the county’s Animal Control.
“We’re not like any other humane society around that usually partners with animal control,” McLain said. “We just celebrated a very big milestone with our 10,000th client (owners not pets). That is amazing.”
The idea for a calendar was originally presented by St. Augustine Humane Society Executive Director Carolyn Smith, who thought that having a contest would be an interesting concept. It has been widely received by the community since it was first introduced.
“The first year we did it we made about $7,000, and each year it gets a little better,” Smith said. “We’re up to about $25,000.”
Hosting the event at Palm Valley Outdoors Bar & Grill was another strategic example of getting the word out.
“We’re midway with the contest right now, so this is just to get people a little more involved early on,” Smith said. “We’ve always concentrated on St. Augustine proper and never really reached out to the northside and to Ponte Vedra.”
The St. Augustine Humane Society is located at 1665 Old Moultrie Road in St. Augustine.
The top contenders were promoted during the events with participants having their own ballot boxes where votes could be collected.
Although the contest primarily consists of cats and dogs, this year’s 70-plus pets also feature a pygmy goat named Jameson and Jake the African Grey parrot.
One of the top vote-getters to this point is a long-haired Chihuahua named Little Bear who made an appearance at the event, along with his owners April and Barry Peckham, in hopes of persuading voters with his cuteness.
“We belong to the Humane Society’s newsletter and heard that it was their biggest fundraiser, so we thought we should support them,” he said. “The Humane Society does so much good for so many dogs and people, too.”
Little Bear is one year old, but it did not take long for him to become part of the family.
“When we got him, he looked like a little bear cub,” Barry Peckham said. “He loves people. The way he acts …. it’s almost as if he’s a human being.”
Each vote is another dollar raised and the voting will end Aug. 7 at 8 p.m. Residents can vote by visiting www.gogophotocontest.com/pupcalendar22.
The calendar reveal party will be held Oct. 21 at a location that is still being determined.