RUSKIN: Boo Bash changes venue

Published on: October 18, 2018

Halloween fun goes to the dogs at Boo Bash


rab your dog’s prettiest tutu, scarf or bandana and head over to Ott’s Off-Leash Dog Sanctuary from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 27.

One of the most joyful events in South Shore is about to take place Oct. 27.

It’s the Critter Adoption and Rescue Effort’s (C.A.R.E.) annual Boo Bash, where dogs of all sizes are unleashed for unfettered hobnobbing with other sociable canines. A few adventurous cats in enclosed carriers usually show up, as well.

“I brought my dog Lady the past two years, and she loved running free with the other dogs,” said Penny Smith, vice president of the C.A.R.E. board. “It’s a truly relaxing, fun-filled family event.” 

Open to the public, the festive event will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Ott’s Off-Leash Dog Sanctuary, 2103 3rd Ave. S.E., Ruskin. It features a Halloween-themed costume contest for dogs that’s always a hoot, a cat photo contest, lots of vendors, free photo ops, music, raffle table, light snacks and beverages.

While dogs cavort around the five-acre, pleasantly shaded dog park, their owners can check out vendors and participate in the raffle.

“Watching them enjoying off-leash play makes for a fun day,” said Joann With, event committee chairwoman. “The costume contest is always amusing, as you can’t anticipate what the contestants might do. Best of all, it’s heartwarming to see many dogs adopted from C.A.R.E. reunited with the volunteers who cared for them while they stayed at our shelter.”

One of the most touching parts of Boo Bash each year is the reunion of former CARE animals that return with their adoptive parents to participate in the event.

The completely optional contest draws canines decked out as everything from angels, ballerinas, hot dogs and pumpkins to princesses, alligators, cowboys and superheroes.

“There’s always a few surprises,” With said.

Three impartial vendors will judge the contest at 11:30 a.m., and prizes will go to first-, second- and third-place winners. 

Parking and admission to the park is free; however, donations are appreciated. Everyone gets a raffle ticket when they arrive. Additional tickets are available for purchase as follows: One for $1; 6 for $5; 13 for $10; and an arm’s length for $20. This year’s items include two tickets to Zoo Tampa; Publix gift cards; gift certificates to local restaurants like Apollo’s Bistro, The Dog House and East Coast Pizza; wine baskets; a gift certificate to Peaceful Harbor Day Spa; and lots more.

As always, D.J. Seth “Doogie” Dugan will provide lively music, which only serves to heighten the fun atmosphere. And Brian Kalish, of Bri’s Eye Photography, will be taking free pet photos. Both men donate their time.

A few daring felines like this one always show up for Boo Bash, but most stay in the comfort of home, where their owners can enter them in the event’s cat photo contest by emailing their pics to

Cats are not forgotten at Boo Bash. Being around all those free-roaming dogs might be a bit too much for most, so owners are invited to email a photo of their pets to All photos will be exhibited at the event, where the public will vote for their favorites. Prizes will be awarded. 

As you might guess, all proceeds from Boo Bash go directly towards C.A.R.E.’s operating fund, which is about $150,000 annually. Other fundraisers include an annual spring tea; quarterly HamBINGO events at Hamburger Mary’s; the annual Trick or Treat Street Pet Costume Contest; and biannual Meowy Hours and Yappy Hours hosted by Dr. Kim Tyson, owner of Four Paws Veterinary Hospital in Riverview. Other funding comes from adoption and membership fees; occasional grants; bequests and individual donations.

C.A.R.E. is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, operated 24/7, 365 days a year almost entirely by volunteers. It has only two paid employees. Its mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and provide temporary housing for abused, neglected and homeless animals and owner-relinquished pets until they find permanent homes.

The no-kill shelter at 1528 27th St. SE, Ruskin, was founded 18 years ago by Dr. Hal Ott, owner of Ruskin Animal Hospital, also founder of the off-leash dog sanctuary. It’s open for public visitation from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

For more information, visit, check out its Facebook page at, or call 813-645-2273.

Some owners and their pets come up with elaborate outfits for Boo Bash’s costume contest for dogs. Three impartial vendors will judge this year’s competition at 11:30 a.m.