Steel City Pet Expo returns to Monroeville on Saturday

| Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 11:28 p.m.

Seeing four legs fit into a tutu is just one of the unique sights that attendees might come across at the Steel City Pet Expo on Saturday at the Monroeville Convention Center, where animals can compete in a pet costume contest, try an obstacle courses, get vaccinated or even find a home.

The free event will be held 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and feature more than 50 exhibitors, offer the latest on pet care and give attendees a chance to see returning celebrity guest Shorty Rossi and his dog Hercules from Animal Planet's “Pet Boss,” according to Autumn Boston, public relations manager for Amazing Pet Expos.

She said last year's Steel City Pet Expo was well-attended and is a reflection of how much Pittsburghers like their animal companions.

“Generally, if we're going back for the next year, it's because it was a well-received show, and we know people love their pets (there),” said Boston, of St. Louis. “Every year, we really strive to make each show a better show.”

This includes bringing back many of the favorites, including the popular pet costume contest. Animals of all shapes and makes can enter the free contest and win a prize if they get the biggest audience response, said Boston, 29.

Prizes will vary and come from exhibitor donations, as well as the St. Louis-based Amazing Pet Expos.

Pets who attend the expo also have a chance to participate in an animal-friendly musical-chairs game.

As in the traditional party pastime, participants circle around chairs and have to sit as soon as they hear the accompanying music stop. However, there aren't as many chairs as players. In the pet-expo version, pet owners follow the same rules but have to wait to sit until their pets sit, Boston said.

For more music fun, she said, there will be pet-song-themed karaoke, as well as an agility course and an obstacle course, both of which are popular for dogs.

“The dogs love it because it challenges them,” Boston said.

And while some of these events are geared toward canine participants, there's something for all animals, and people are welcome to bring any size pet, as long as it's on a fixed lead and has age-appropriate vaccinations.

“If it's legal you can bring it. We had people bring a miniature horse,” Boston said.

Upon entering, vaccination papers from the pets' vets are required, except for those whose owners don't support medical vaccinations and can bring their alternative titer test results, she said.

Other unvaccinated animals may come to the expo only if the owners are planning to take advantage of the event's low-cost vaccinations and microchipping, which will be provided by VIP Pet Care, Boston said.

She said owners can sign up for the service when they arrive at the show. She reminds owners that animals must be at least 12 weeks old.

In addition to the vaccines and microchipping, if there is any animal in need of medical attention while at the pet expo, AVETS, a 24-hour emergency and speciality hospital for dogs and cats in Monroeville, will be returning for its second year.

“We're there just in case but hopefully we're not needed,” said Jill Germanoski, AVETS community outreach coordinator.

AVETS, an acronym for Allegheny Veterinary Emergency Trauma & Specialty, always is open, Germanoski said. In addition to offering emergency services, it also offers surgical care, internal medicine, critical care, CAT scans, MRIs, X-rays, oncology and more, said Germanoski, of Murrsyville.

And for those who are looking for alternative or additional medical treatment for their dogs, cats and any other pet, Michael G. Savko, a chiropractor and certified veterinary chiropractitioner, who specializes in a noninvasive healing technology called veterinary orthopedic manipulation, or VOM, also will be an exhibitor at the show.

Without the use of drugs or surgery, Savko said, his technique is a holistic approach that helps find areas of an animal's nervous system that have fallen out of “proper communication” with the body and brain and, thus, possibly are interfering with the healing process, he said.

“We are making sure the body is working at its highest level … to heal the best it can or induce the healing process,” said Savko, who see patients at locations throughout the Pittsburgh area, including the Delmont Veterinary Hospital in Delmont.

He said he is attending the show to let pet owners know that in addition to or rather than traditional medical treatment for an animal, VOM can help find or solve an animal's medical problem.

“I'm trying to offer them a new solution to their problem,” said Savko, 41, of Westmoreland County.

Pampered Paws-N-Claws, located in the Claridge area of Penn Township, will be a first-time exhibitor at the Steel City Pet Expo to offer advice on proper pet grooming and holistic pet nutrition, according to Stephanie Niemiec, owner and a certified groomer.

A graduate of the Florida Institute of Animal Arts in Winter Park, Fla., Niemiec, of Greensburg, said there's not just one standard cut for all dogs and cats but different cuts for different breeds.

She went to school in Florida because she “didn't want to be like every other groomer up here.” She can do all types of styles, including Japanese-style grooming that makes the pet look a bit like a toy or a “little teddy bear,” she said.

Niemiec, 24, also will be offering samples of natural pet foods at the expo for dogs and cats. She said she is interested in food therapy and that many pets can feel better if they have the proper nutrition.

And if a pet just can't wait any longer for that nail trim, Greenfield Grooming Salon on Beechwood Boulevard in Pittsburgh will be at the expo to offer the service for $5, including an ear cleaning, said Donna Winnie, owner and office manager.

Returning for the second year to the Steel City Pet Expo, Winnie, 44, said last year, the event was “really good” and “really organized.”

The salon does grooming for dogs, cats and even some exotic animals, Winnie said. On Fridays, the store offers pet grooming with sedation “for the ones that are a little more jumpy and a little more fearful.”

Winnie, of Shaler Township, said she has been working in the animal business for more than 30 years and was a certified veterinary technician for 26. While at the expo, she also will display homemade candles to fight pet odors, as well as other products for sale, such as no-slip collars.

And petless people who are looking for an animal companion should come to the expo's Mega-Adoption Event. Many rescue groups will have a variety of animals at the show, so those interested can pick out a new family member right there, Boston said.

She said usually dogs and cats are up for adoption, although some reptiles also could be available. However, local law requires new pet owners to pick up their animals at the adopting shelter at a later date.

Natalie Beneviat is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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