Pet owners are being encouraged to step outside and go for a walk June 22.
Money collected from the Unite to Fight Virtual Pet Walk will help fund cancer research projects selected by Morris Animal Foundation. The Denver nonprofit organization since 1950 has supported more than 2,000 studies of health issues involving animals.
The Pet Walk is a personal undertaking, meaning individuals or groups may walk anytime June 22, pledge money and ask friends and family members to contribute to the cause. Participants may register at unitetofight.morrisanimalfoundation.org.
The website keeps a running tally of the money raised, and a map shows where walks are planned.
The event is part of Morris Unite to Fight Pet Cancer Campaign, which was launched today and aims to raise $250,000 within six months. The organizers set a $100,000 goal for the walk alone.
The campaign has a celebrity endorser: Dos Equis beer spokesman Jonathan Goldsmith, whom commercials deem "the most interesting man in the world."
"Too many families, mine included, have lived through the heartbreak of the loss of our pets," Goldsmith said. "That's why I am participating in the … walk. I believe in the work that they are doing through prevention, treatment and research."
The Blue Buffalo Foundation for Cancer Research, set up by Wilton, Conn., pet food maker Blue Buffalo Co., is contributing as well. The company will match up to $50,000 in donations collected through June.
The decision to assist Morris was easy, said David Petrie, the Blue Buffalo foundation's president.
"They are a global leader in funding the best science to help animals around the world," Petrie said.
The cancer risk in pets is real, said David Haworth, DVM, Ph.D., Morris Animal Foundation's president and CEO. Cancer is a leading cause of canine deaths, and nearly 6 million cats are diagnosed with the disease each year.
"Every pet deserves a long, healthy life," Dr. Haworth said. "Sadly, cancer has taken the lives of too many pets, including my beloved dog Luna."
"We believe that research is the answer to cancer," he added.
Morris has supported nearly 200 canine cancer studies. The findings have led to more effective treatments for bone cancer, soft-tissue sarcomas and lymphoma, the foundation reported, along with the development of an early diagnostic test for lymphoma.