Mariah Nichols, Staff Writer

Two and four-legged friends proudly walked around Lake Mirror on Saturday, April 16 at 8 a.m. for the SPCA 2016 Walk for Animals here in Lakeland. The event provided plenty of fun activities for both pet owners and their furry friends such as a costume contest, a Bow Wow Breakfast, musical SIT and an agility course for the dogs. All the excitement was topped off with live music and good food making for a festive day. The soul purpose of Walk for Animals is for the community to come out and give support to SPCA Florida who helps 5,000 homeless cats and dogs each year and provides affordable medical treatment to more than 68,500 animals annually.

“The SPCA Florida Walk for Animals was the brainchild of SPCAF Founder and Board Member, Mary Stephens,” said Paula Creamer, SPCA director of business marketing and philanthropy. “Twenty-four years ago, Mary and a team of animal lovers understood the importance of community involvement for the continued success of SPCA Florida.”

SPCA Florida, a non-profit organization founded in 1979, made their landmark in the Lakeland area by providing hope to more than 6,000 homeless animals entering their doors each year. Their McClurg Animal Medical Center, which is open to the public, is a state-of-the-art veterinary facility that helps 50,000 patients annually. The mission of this organization is to eliminate suffering in animals and to engage the community in their welfare and well-being. The annual Pet Walk provides crucial fundraising for individuals and businesses to help their cause.

“This year 280 walkers and their furry friends participated by raising money to support the animals,” Creamer stated. “The day of the event, there were close to 700 in attendance.”

The 2016 fundraising goal was to hit the $120,000 mark. On the morning of the Pet Walk, the total had already been tallied at over $107,000, but registrations and donations continued to pour in even after the event.

“We are confident the $120,000 goal will be reached,” Creamer said. “SPCA Florida team members will work throughout the rest of the month to finalize totals and report successes.”

Participating in the Lake Mirror event goes beyond just walking for a cause. For many, taking part means something a bit more personal.

“The Walk for Animals is the perfect time for someone to honor their own pet while helping to save the lives of thousands more,” Creamer shared. “Many walkers stated that they participated to honor the passing of a furry friend or to make a statement regarding the importance of spaying and neutering of dogs and cats.”

The SPCA Florida’s Adoption Center encourages everyone to stop by and take a tour of the facility. Their hope is to bring awareness about the wonderful benefits of adopting from a shelter as opposed to going to a breeder. With the many wonderful animals to choose from, one visit can truly change your life. Once that special bond is made and you take home your forever friend, one might ask, “who rescues who?”

For more information, please visit