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Walking for animals in need

It's spring in North Carolina, and that means droves of people, typically prospective students, are descending upon the campus. But Saturday, April 26, different species will dominate-dogs, cats, iguanas and other pets.

For the first time in its 30-year history, the Animal Protection Society of Durham will host its annual fundraiser-the Walk for the Animals-on Duke's campus.

"This year is really different than previous years," said Julia Wing, development director for APS. "It's kind of a festival for the animals. We're going to have live entertainment the whole time, pet-related demonstrations and a variety of vendors."

The Walk is the key to the organization's existence. Founded in 1973, the society seeks to prevent cruelty to animals and stop pet overpopulation. Each year APS deals with over 6,000 animals in need. Its mission is "to strive for the human care, treatment and well-being of all animals through education, information, investigation and action."

Carole LeBar, an APS volunteer, explained that the society helps strays, animals trapped in poor living conditions and animals surrendered by their current owners.

Seventy-four percent of the animals APS takes into custody must be euthanized, 11 percent are returned to their owners and 15 percent are adopted. "It's wonderful that about 25 percent get to stay," LeBar said. "But because we don't have the space, because there is no room in the inn, [some cannot be saved]. We never have enough of anything-food, medicine, personnel."

Hoping to raise about $50,000 to $75,000, the society, which relies almost solely on volunteers, is optimistic about the doors the walk could open.

"We're a service to the public as well as to animals," Wing said. "If we have more money, there is so much more we can do for the animals."

Donations will help pay for upper respiratory, flea infestation and heartworm medicines, spaying and neutering, and food for their kennel residents.

The day will begin bright and early at 8 a.m. with registration, free breakfast and live music in Wallace Wade Stadium. Pets and their owners will take over campus during the 5K walk, scheduled for 10 a.m.

The festivities and contests-such as the best pet costume and pet and owner look-alike contests-will continue throughout the day until 2 p.m. APS will also host an adoption tent for orphaned animals.

Registered walkers will be entered in a raffle, making them eligible to win Duke basketball tickets. The walker that raises the most dollars in pledges will win a beach vacation. Registration can be done through www.APSWalkfortheAnimals.org, and the walk may be done individually or in teams.

Duke students have an extra incentive to join the festivities. "The prize for the Duke group that raises the most money is a pizza party at Satisfactions," LeBar explained.

For now, pets and their owners will literally take things one step at a time, in the hope the pledges behind their footsteps will protect Durham area animals.

"We're thinking big," LeBar said.

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