Organizers today said they are expecting a record turnout for the annual 'Blessing of the Animals,' a popular event that will take place on Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles on April 19. The centuries-old cobblestone plaza will be packed with hundreds of dogs and many other representatives of the animal kingdom, including cats, parakeets, rabbits, fish, iguanas, snakes and beasts of burden.
Those accustomed to the smell of fresh hay and manure will have no problem participating in the 84-year-old tradition, which takes place on the Saturday before Easter. Over the years, the religious festivity has grown from a simple procession of domestic, farm and exotic animals to an all-day event that includes live entertainment, food, and fun and educational activities for children.
Owners throughout southern California bring their animals to the event each year to be blessed by a high-ranking person of the cloth. It is their hope that a religious authority may help cure their animal of its physical or emotional issues.
The rite is believed to have started in the 4th century, when animal owners resorted to divine intervention to aid in their animals' fertility, health and well-being. Today, these caretakers hope that a blessing will help improve their animals' behavioral patterns and varied levels of stress.
People who adopt rescue animals, in particular, are often faced with unforeseen matters, from hip dysplasia and chronic allergies to malnutrition and issues of neglect. Professionals will be on hand to help pet owners better understand how to deal with an animal that was once abandoned or mistreated.
Whether they are in good health or not, land and aquatic animals of all faiths will be honored for their on-going service to mankind.
The blessings will run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Follow Sharon at CBS Los Angeles.