The RSPCA Million Paws Walk
The RSPCA Million Paws Walk in Canberra on Sunday, May 19. Photo: Andrew Meares
Julia Gillard may be involved in a dogfight in the polls, but she still found time to take her cavoodle, Reuben, for a stroll around Lake Burley Griffin on Sunday morning.
The Prime Minister joined a record crowd of 4250 dogs, 12,000 people, one cat and a pig at Canberra's Million Paws Walk event.
"It was terrific to get out and enjoy the beautiful autumn sunshine with so many enthusiastic Canberrans, and Reuben appreciated the opportunity to make some new friends," Ms Gillard said.
Other Canberra identities also lent their support for the cause.
Well-known bouncer Rocky Winikerei showed he was a hard man with a soft heart, taking Pedro the Chihuahua for a turn in the sunshine.
"I've got a soft spot for any animal," Mr Winikerei said. "They're good family members, all my five kids were brought up with animals."
Mr Winikerei and the Leader Security team helped raise more than $2500 for the animal welfare organisation.
RSPCA chief executive Michael Linke said Sunday's crowd looked to have helped raise the targeted $200,000.
Each year, the RSPCA cares for more than 8500 animals in Canberra and 30,000 across Australia.
Mr Linke said the yearly event is the major fundraiser for the ACT RSPCA, which relies on donations for about 86 per cent of its $4 million annual budget.
He said the record turnout showed animal welfare was more in the public psyche.
The walk started from Stage 88 in Commonwealth Park, where more than 70 stalls selling refreshments and pet-care items ensured the entrants were well prepared for the five-kilometre trip.
The costume competition again proved a popular event, with a Star Wars Imperial Walker and saddled jockeys among the entrants.
Michelle Leonard, the owner of Tippi, said the dog's outfit, which featured a toy dog helping Tippi to carry a wrapped box, took about 60 hours to construct.
"She's very patient and puts up with it because she loves the attention," Ms Leonard said.
It was the third year Tippi took part in the annual event, which had a special significance as the 10-year-old was a former pound puppy.
"Because she's a rescue dog we know how important it is to raise awareness," Ms Leonard said.
"If people can give a dog a second chance, that's great. Tippi has been nothing but a delight for us."