March 17, 2014

Bark for Your Park is a nationwide contest PetSafe has hosted for the past three years. Now in its fourth year, the company is reaching out proactively to retailers asking them to be a part of the contest.

“The communities that win dog parks get very excited about their pets and their community,” Robin Hawn Rhea, senior brand manager for PetSafe, said. “As a buzz of pet enthusiasm begins within the community, there tends to be a spike in adoptions and pet owners seeking products, training and solutions for the home and the dog park. A retailer that is a partner with the community during the contest is truly supporting their community on their journey to become even more responsible and giving with their pets.”

Nearly 10 years ago, PetSafe had available property adjacent to its headquarters that they developed into a 1.5-acre dog park and made it available to the public.

“We were amazed at the huge amount of traffic and excitement that the park generated,” Rhea said. “So we continued to donate to the East Tennessee-area dog lovers. We saw more people adopting dogs because a dog park was available and that dog parks helped reduce the number two reason dogs are surrender to shelters, behavior. When dogs get the exercise and socialization they need in dog parks, they exhibited far fewer of the behavior issues that result in owner surrenders. We knew we were on to something and wanted to expand the effort to other communities.

“The challenge was, ‘How would we ever choose who to give a dog park to?’ We want parks to go to cities that we knew would love them and use them. So we developed the Bark for Your Park contest and structured the contest to ensure that the most deserving and most pet-loving communities can have their very own dog park.”

The 2012 Grand Prize Winner was the town of Texarkana, Ark. One of the community coordinators is Chrystal Sloan, who found out about the contest from a friend.

“In 2011, I found the contest while searching for grants to help our local animal shelter, but the idea of a community dog park had been pitched to me before then,” Sloan said. “When I started talking about entering the contest, a friend told me that their friend, DeAnna O’Malley, had been wanting a dog park in Texarkana, too. It turned out that DeAnna happened to be my neighbor. Our city manager, Harold Boldt, gave us his blessing and picked out a location for the future dog park.”

The first year they tried was the first year of the contest and their effort didn’t get off the ground. Sloan and O’Malley decided they wanted to try again for the following year, so Sloan sent personal emails to everyone she knew.

“When State Rep. Prissy Hickerson, who is an advocate for the animals, responded with enthusiasm, I knew we had a real chance,” Sloan said.
“She really helped by rallying other elected officials, doing her homework, and speaking to the media. Then it snowballed into something really wonderful. People began to take it upon themselves to rally their friends and family to vote for the dog park,” she said. “Every media outlet available to us kept the story in the news. I started a Facebook page and people found their niche to help. Some people used comedy, some used their influence, some used their math skills, some used their graphic skills, but everyone used their networking skills.

“Local businesses were amazing to us. We had donations for flyers, magazine ads, newspaper ads, T-shirts, banners and prizes for the celebration party. Several businesses put ‘Bark for Your Park’ on their marquee signs, allowed us to put up flyers, and hosted voting events. Because the 7 Vote Sniff Out was such an important day and some people had a hard time figuring out what to do, we would set up voting stations at several places throughout the day. Some of the best memories were made at a local bar. The people there were in a good mood, ready to socialize, happy to talk about the dog park and, most importantly, vote! It didn’t hurt that we kept a pitcher of beer and a stack of cups at our table. We were in it to win it and we had fun doing it.”

Sloan suggests communities who want to win, should build a team.

“It takes all kinds to make the world go ‘round and it takes all kinds to win the PetSafe Bark for Your Park contest,” Sloan said. “Let people do what they do best and ask them to run with it. Think outside of the box. Create your own contests or incentives to get people interested.

“Take advantage of any situation where there are large groups of people. Rent booths at festivals, of course ask if you can have the space for free since you are helping your community, go to adoption events, dog shows, bowling alleys, sporting events or a mall and set up information/voting stations. Since people have to vote on their computer, you must have a solid presence on social media sites. They are sitting at their computer, so they might as well vote and help their community while they are surfing the Internet.”

The 2013 grand prize winner was the town of Texarkana, Texas.

Robby Robertson, the parks and recreation director of Texarkana, said they had wanted to have a dog park as a part of their park system for a number of years.

“The Parks Department donated/ designated a piece of land at one of our local parks: Spring Lake Park. We also went to our City Council in support of this project and to encourage their support as well,” Robertson said.

A group of local citizens approached Roberton’s department regarding the contest.

“Apparently the city of Texarkana, Texas, was already nominated and they asked for our support and assistance with getting our local leaders involved,” Robertson said. “People are very excited and are looking forward to the opening. The construction of the Dog Park has recently begun, and we have had a number of people showing up at the location asking when the park will be open and of course the phone calls about the Dog Park have really increased in the past few weeks.”

For more information on this year’s Bark for Your Park, visit the PetSafe website at www.petsafe.net.


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