The dogs of Baton Rouge will come out in their Mardi Gras best on Sunday for the 16th annual Mystic Krewe of Mutts parade presented by Capital Area Animal Welfare Society (CAAWS).

This year’s theme, “Marvelous Mutts,” boasts a lengthened parade route to accommodate the growing hundreds of dogs and owners who participate each year. It will still start and end on North Boulevard, but will now include Fifth, Convention and Fourth streets on the way back around.

CAAWS secretary Freda Yarbrough Dunne said an additional benefit to the extended route is more space for spectators.

“It’s gotten so big,” Dunne said. “We usually have several hundred people in the parade. We already have lots registered, but not yet sure of what the exact turnout will be because people typically register the day of the parade.”

Registration has had a history of varying depending on weather conditions, so Dunne said she is hoping for a favorable day to allow CAAWS to engage the pet-loving community.

While the parade may be the main attraction, the day of dog fun sponsored in part by Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, more importantly serves as a CAAWS fundraiser to promote its spay/neuter programs in the Baton Rouge area.

“The main cause is to spay and neuter as many (dogs) as possible so that we reduce the population of animals that are in the shelters,” Dunne said.

To further push its mission CAAWS has also prepared a full day of activities called Bark in the Park, that will run along North Boulevard at Town Square and Galvez Plaza. Activities will include vendors showcasing food, information, shopping and K-9 demonstrations.

The most popular events of the day, however, are the contests. Participants may compete in a best float design for pet-sized decorated floats. There is also a costume competition among dressed-up pooches, including an opportunity to win best group theme if owners also take part in the costuming. Dunne said her favorite past winner was a Flintstone theme where the owners were dressed as Fred and Wilma with their dogs costumed as Bam Bam and Pebbles.

“I loved it,” she said. “It really, really was a fantastic job on the costumes and I was like ‘wow’ the entire time,” she said.

Dunne said that while mostly fun, the event’s major takeaway is that work can be done to reduce the population of strays and educate the public on how to make life better for every pet.

Dunne encourages pet owners to dress comfortably, including walking shoes, and to take measures to ensure their dogs can withstand the day. There will be plenty of space for animals to take breaks and accommodations will also be provided for their humans.

CAAWS is a non-profit organization committed to the well-being of animals in the Baton Rouge community by providing, facilitating, and promoting spay/neuter, adopting or facilitating the adoption of homeless animals and teaching the community responsible companion animal ownership and the humane treatment of animals.

Additional CAAWS sponsors include BREC, PETCO, BRECO Federal Credit Union and Sunshine Media.