Great North Dog Walk in jeopardy as Chinese sponsor pulls out amid Coronavirus epidemic

The organiser of the Great North Dog Walk has been left “devastated” after a Chinese sponsor was forced to pull out leaving the 30th anniversary event in jeopardy.

By Sarah Sinclair
Sunday, 9th February 2020, 8:00 am

Thousands of people and dogs take part in the “world’s largest dog walk” in South Shields, organised by Tony Carlisle for the last three decades.

Chinese start-up company Pawfit – which designs ‘FitBit’ style technology for pets – had agreed to be the main sponsor for the anniversary event, but announced they were pulling out due to the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak on the business.

In an email to Mr Carlisle, the firm’s marketing consultant, Andy Ellis said the situation in China has “escalated dramatically” and that the “health of the workers is paramount.”

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Previous events on The Leas, South Shields have attracted thousands of people and dogs.

Factories have been forced to close as the virus spreads across the country killing more than 600 people to date.

Despite being due to return to work on Monday, February 3 the company was informed on Thursday that the closures would be extended until at least February 20.

But with border crossings and transportation systems starting to close down, Mr Ellis is not confident things will be up and running by then.

“It’s a tough time for everybody manufacturing goods in China,” he said, speaking to the Gazette from his Liverpool office.

Tony Carlisle with Steve Backshall and Helen Glover MBE who were due to appear at the 30th anniversary event.

“That date is an estimate, but we don’t believe we will be able to go back then.

“Shipping to the rest of the world has ground to a halt. As far as profit goes it’s almost gone.”

Mr Ellis, who was living in China during the SARS outbreak in 2003, added: “It’s inevitable that it will affect the economy, but China has a great ability to turn things around quickly and they will be working around the clock to catch up.”

Pawfit, which was hoping to play a big part in the Great North Dog Walk, has apologised for the turn of events.

The Great North Dog Walk founder Tony Carlisle and his dog Bella have been left without sponsorship for the 2020 event.

Mr Ellis added: “We feel really bad for Tony. It’s such a great cause and he’s put his life and soul into the event. It’s really sad to see him struggling to get sponsorship and we hope he can find a replacement.”

Mr Carlisle, who had to cancel last year’s event due to ill health says the event cannot go ahead if he doesn’t find financial support soon.

“I feel very much for the families and people in China, my thoughts are with them,” said the dad-of-three.

"I’m devastated. It’s like winning the lottery and someone taking it away again.”

Tony says the event cannot go ahead without financial support.

Special guests including Steve Backshall, Helen Glover MBE and Coronation Street star Shelley King, were due to attend the 30th anniversary of the event which has previously been sponsored by Pets at Home and The Dogs Trust.

Mr Carlisle added: “I’m heartbroken, I have worked so hard on it, it takes a full year to organise and now that’s all in jeopardy.

“If the event doesn’t go ahead this year that will be it for me.”

If you’re interested in sponsoring the event contact [email protected] or 07757249799.

Chinese sponsor Pawfit had to pull out due to the Coronavirus epidemic.