With more than 36,000 votes cast, a winner has been named in Lebanon Publishing Company’s first-ever cutest pets photo contest.
LPC is the parent company for The Democrat, Mt. Juliet News and Hartsville Vidette.
The contest began in January and wrapped up earlier this week as a winner was announced amid thousands of votes and voters and hundreds of photo submissions.
Between Jan. 20 and Feb. 14, users were able to register and submit photos of any type of pet in hopes of it being crowned the cutest pet in Wilson County. Voting for the cutest pet then followed the submission period from Feb. 17-28.
In its first year, the contest saw 255 pet photo submissions and 1,040 registered users. Users must have been registered to submit a photo or vote in the contest.
“We were overwhelmed with the response from our online audience,” said LPC Publisher Jesse Lindsey. “The massive number of votes represent not only the importance of people’s love for their pets in this area, but also that our trio of newspaper websites are a great vehicle for disseminating information and are indeed a destination for anyone with a computer, tablet or smart phone.”
Within the two-week voting window, 36,404 votes were cast to elect the county’s cutest pet.
Every person that registered to vote or submit a photo in the contest could cast 10 votes a day everyday for the entirety of the voting period.
Of the more than 36,000 votes cast, the winning pet, Benny, received a fourth of the votes, wrangling in 9,862 total.
Benny’s owner, Hanna Reese, of Lebanon, said Benny is around 11 months old and a Yorkie and Dachshund mix.
“He’s very destructive, basically the only thing I can give him is rawhides,” Reese said. “He’s very social and loves to chase kitty cats and loves any animal. He has a lot of fun chasing my cat Bobby Sue, who doesn’t have a tail.”
Reese said Benny is set to celebrate his first birthday on April 21, and she got him when he was around three or four months old online from a woman in East Tennessee.
She said Benny wasn’t the only puppy purchased, though, and her brother also bought the other dog in the litter, Benny’s brother, which he named Bruce Wayne.
“I’m really glad they stayed together and still get to see each other,” Reese said.
Reese said when she got him she immediately knew she wanted to name him Benny.
“He just seemed like a Benny to me. And I like that song Benny and the Jets,” Reese said.
According to Reese, she decided to enter Benny into the cutest pets contest after reading about it in the newspaper. She said she then used the power of social media to expose the contest and Benny to all of her friends and family in order to rack up as many votes as possible.
“I used Facebook friends, Twitter, Instagram friends, I would just post about it on all of them all of the time saying ‘everyone please vote for Benny,’” Reese said. “He’s got a lot of fans.”
By winning the contest, Reese and Benny received a $100 gift card, courtesy of Petco in Lebanon.
“I’ve got him food and I’ll try to get him some toys, but I’m going to use the rest of it to get him a haircut before Easter,” Reese said.
Along with Petco’s generous donation, Marketing Director Charity Toombs also said she’d like to thank Avenue Animal Hospital, Action Equipment Service Co., Cumberland Animal Massage, Pet-i-cut Junction, Wiggins’ Jewelers, Williams Tree Trimming, Home Run Pet Care and New Leash on Life, all of which were sponsors of the contest.
“Many, many thanks to all of our participating sponsors for all of their tremendous support,” Toombs said.
Looking at the numbers and success of the contest, Toombs said people could expect another in the future.
“We look forward to an even bigger contest next year,” Toombs said. “We’ll for sure do it again.”