GREAT North Dog Walk boss Tony Carlisle is aiming to set tails wagging in a milestone year for the charity extravaganza.
The annual attraction is celebrating its 25th anniversary in June, and Mr Carlisle is aiming for a record-breaking 25,000 four-legged friends to join in the party.
The countdown to the silver anniversary dog walk got under way at South Shields Town Hall yesterday.
South Tyneside Mayor Coun Fay Cunningham joined a host of sponsors to give the civic seal of approval at the launch day for the walk, which takes place on Sunday, June 7, on The Leas in South Shields.
The silver success will be a part of a memorable summer for dad-of-four Tony as he is set to tie the knot with long-term partner Nicola Greenan in August.
In honour of the 25th anniversary of the event, which has raised millions of pounds for good causes, 25 charities will be supported on the day.
“It’s just something I never thought we would achieve -we started with just 13 dogs in 1990Great North Dog Walk organiser Tony Carlisle
As well as a host of animal charities, funds will be raised for good causes such as St Clare’s Hospice in Jarrow and the Northumbria Blood Bikes team.
Mr Carlisle said: “We want as many people as possible to sign up for this great day out that brings together dog lovers from all over the North East.
“What better way of walking the dog on a Sunday than to be among so many other dogs and their owners, and to raise money for charity as well?
“The best present to mark our 25th anniversary would be to beat our record attendance from last year and get 25,000 people doing the Great North Dog Walk.
“Last year, we had 24,542 dogs, and I am confident that we can beat that this year and get more than 25,000.”
The former Harton Technology College teacher is delighted to mark 25 years after starting with just 13 dogs for company back in 1990.
Mr Carlisle added: “It’s something I never thought we would achieve.
“I am glad Coun Cunningham is here as South Tyneside Mayor, as she has been supporting the walk from the very start.”
Coun Cunningham said: “I am just so delighted to be here to support Tony in the 25th year of the dog walk.
“It is an absolutely wonderful event and is one of the biggest events of the year in South Tyneside, up there with the Great North Run.”
Colin Powell, community fundraiser at St Clare’s Hospice in Jarrow, a chosen charity for the first time, said: “This is the first time pet owners who take part in the Great North Dog Walk can raise funds for the hospice, and we are grateful that Tony has added us to the list of official charities.
“We really hope people will take the lead and support St Clare’s Hospice at this year’s event.
“We will be offering a special prize for the dog that raises the most for the hospice.”
To sign up for the dog walk, log onto www.greatnorthdogwalk.co.uk