Dog-gone, it’s time for canine Mardi Gras

Since its beginning in 1999, Krewe des Chiens has paraded proud pups through the streets of Lafayette for its annual dog parade while raising more than $300,000 for local animal-aid organizations and shelters.

“It started as a parade for dogs that were up for adoption at the shelters, and it kind of grew into this awesome thing that it is now,” said Allison Habetz, president of the krewe. “The mission became to raise money for spay and neuter awareness for pet overpopulation because it’s such a problem. We have shelters and rescue groups full of adoptable dogs because of poor population control.”

The krewe holds three main fundraisers: the dog parade, a Mardi Gras ball for the owners where the pets make only a brief appearance and a raffle to choose the royalty.

All proceeds are donated to local animal shelters and rescue groups so they can afford spay and neuter services for adoptable dogs.

“We allow rescue groups and shelters within the Acadiana area to apply for funds,” Habetz said. “Based on their size and their tax status, we allot funds.”

Last year alone, Krewe des Chiens raised $28,000, and the parade featured 191 dogs.

“This year we’re hoping to have over 200 dogs,” Habetz said.

The festivities will be held Feb. 22, beginning with a costume contest at 1 p.m. and the parade at 2 p.m.

Owners and their dogs are encouraged to dress in accordance with this year’s theme, “Las Vegas Casino des Chiens.”

Although the dog parade is considered the main event, Krewe des Chiens’ annual People Ball has also become a popular attraction.

“The parade is our baby — that’s the big thing that happens — but the People Ball is something that I really love to raise awareness about,” Habetz said.

The ball begins with the presentation of the royalty, then all canines must leave while their two-legged friends stay to enjoy the live band.

“I call it the best kept Mardi Gras ball secret,” Habetz said. “It’s just an awesome ball. It’s not formal like the other balls, and it’s very affordable.”

This year’s ball will be held at City Club at 7 p.m. Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day.

Tickets are $50 and will be available until the day of the event.

A silent auction also will be held before the ball begins.

In an effort to expand the parade and raise more money, Krewe des Chiens added new features to this year’s parade.

“This is the first year that we rented out Putnam Parc at the beginning of the parade route for booths and vendors,” said Rosalyn Saloom, a board member with the krewe.

The park will be a source of entertainment for dogs, owners and children. There will be face painting, vendors selling dog costumes,and local food trucks, Saloom said.

“Putnam Parc is going to be used for kind of a daylong party,” Habetz said.

The krewe also recently added jesters to the parade royalty.

The dog parade usually features a king, queen, duke and duchess, all chosen at a raffle at Bark in the Park in Girard Park on the first weekend of November.

“If you weren’t lucky enough to have your dog win one of the four primary royal positions, you can have your dog in the parade as a jester for $100,” Habetz said.

Owners who want to walk their dogs in the parade must either pay a $25 preregistration fee beforehand or a $35 registration fee on the day of the parade. Everyone else is encouraged to come out with their dogs and watch the parade for free.

“It’s a great parade for children and pet owners,” Saloom said. “It’s always a good time.”

The parade route, which was originally at Acadiana Mall, now runs through downtown Lafayette.

It begins in front of the federal courthouse on Lafayette Street, turns down Vermilion Street and ends near Parc Sans Souci.