LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — LGBT+ celebrities will join other dog lovers parading their pets in a virtual dog show for charity this month with a special category to celebrate Pride.
With hundreds of dog shows and Pride parades cancelled due to the coronavirus, the charity Guide Dogs, which provides blind and partially sighted people with guide dogs, wants people to have fun online instead.
Comedian Paul O’Grady, known for his drag queen character Lily Savage, television presenter Anna Richardson and broadcaster Clare Balding are some of the LGBT+ celebrities competing with their pooches.
“We are giving you the opportunity to take part in our own fabulous virtual Pride parade,” the charity said on its Facebook page, asking people to vote online for their favorite canines competing in the Pride Dogs for Guide Dogs category.
“So dig out the outfit you might have planned for your event and feel free to accessorize your paw-some pals to complement your look.”
Britain is a nation of dog-lovers, from the Queen and her corgis to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Jack Russell and breeders have seen a surge in demand for dogs during a lockdown to counter the spread of COVID-19.
Pride is celebrated each June to mark the birth of the modern LGBT+ rights movement with the Stonewall riots. Due to the coronavirus, there will be a digital Global Pride instead this year on June 27, with 24-hours of music and speeches.
“Being a young person who is part of the LGBT community and also a guide dog owner, I think this event has really touched close to home,” one Pride Dogs for Guide Dogs competitor, Luke Orros, 20, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“With this event, I think Guide Dogs are really showing that they’re still here and working with people.”
Having spent three months largely confined to his home to counter the spread of COVID-19, Orros said he missed the freedom that his dog Harley normally gives him.
“The whole part that guide dogs play is to give people their independence,” he said. “Having that stripped away with current circumstances of lockdown has been difficult.”
Guide Dogs advised dog owners to limit Pride accessories to collar attachments and leads that do not distress their pets.
“Guide Dogs doesn’t condone the dressing up of dogs,” it said, adding that the winners will be announced in August.
—Reporting by Darnell Christie; Editing by Katy Migiro.