WILLIAMSTOWN — One day soon, if it looks like a pack of about 100 family dogs are chasing about 300 people through the Village Beautiful, don't panic.
Look at the calendar. If it's Saturday, May 14, that would be the 14th Annual Humane Race, in which humans and dogs go on a fun run to raise money for the Berkshire Humane Society.
The 5K fun run and the one-mile fun walk start at 10 a.m. on Water Street, near Water Street Books. Last year, the event raised more than $10,000 for the Berkshire Humane Society, which runs a shelter for homeless pets and operates a number of other educational and volunteer efforts aimed at improving the lives of pets and their owners.
According to event organizer Christa Abel, owner of boutique pet supply store Bark 'N Cat in North Adams, over the last 14 years, the popularity of the Humane Race has continued to grow to the point where it has become a seasonal event that people look forward to year round.
The running and walking routes both end at the bottom of Spring Street, where there will be live DJ music for the two-leggers, and wading pools and treats for the four-leggers. Human food will also be available.
"This is the only event in North County that benefits the Berkshire Humane Society," Abel said. "But the Berkshire Humane Society does a lot of work throughout the county to help homeless dogs, and works with other community agencies and kids to perform outreach and education. They even help folks train their dogs. The bottom line is that if you help the Berkshire Humane Society, you're helping homeless dogs."
Abel noted that participants can raise additional money for the Humane Society and be eligible for special prizes. For each $100 raised, runners receive a raffle ticket for three different pledge prizes valued at a minimum of $100. They include gift certificates to Hops & Vines and NoCo Pastaria; Amanda Jones' new book, Dog Years, and a gift basket from Dog Studio; and a digital portrait of the winner's pet by Sheri Riddell.
Anyone looking to support runners in the Humane Race can make a donation on its personal fundraising page at Humanerace.org.
In 14 years the Humane Race has raised more than $145,000, according to John Perreault, executive director of the Berkshire Humane Society.
"The funds from the race go to help many of our programs, one of which is the Ken Freeberg Fund," he said. "This fund helps animals entering our shelter that are in need of extra medical attention prior to being placed up for adoption; anything from blood work for a senior pet to dentistry to surgically repairing broken bones."
One of the most popular features of the Humane Race is the awarding of puppy prizes for best owner lookalike, best tail wagger, cutest ears, best doggie vocalist, smallest canine competitor, largest canine competitor and muttiest mutt.
Forms are available at Greylock Animal Hospital, Bark N' Cat, or at the Humane Society on Barker Road in Pittsfield. The first 150 runners and walkers to register will receive a race T-shirt. All participating dogs get a free bandana.
Pre-registration costs $20 per person 13 years old and older, $15 for children 12 and under. Cost of registration on the day of the race is $5 more. Registration starts at 8 a.m. near the starting line.
Humane Race funds also help to sustain the Berkshire Humane Society's educational programming, provided free to all local schools, as well as scholarships for the shelter's popular summer camp, Perreault noted.
The Safe Pet program also benefits from the Humane Race, he added. This program helps the residents of the Elizabeth Freeman Center and others in crisis situations who are not getting the help they need when they have no place or no other person to care for their pet while they receive help.
"Now there is a safe place for their pet, and they can get the help they need," Perreault said. "Without the support of the Humane Race, many of these core programs would not have been so successful."
Contact Scott Stafford at 413-496-6301.
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