Ian Somerhalder Hosts Mardi Gras Dog Model Show

Fat Tuesday isn’t just for the furless — pets love to celebrate, too.

Each year in Mandeville, Louisiana, local canines gather together for the Mardi Paws Parade. Every dog is welcome to attend this celebration of canine couture and revelry; this year it’s on Feb. 18 with the theme “Fables, Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes.”

As the pup participants walk, wheel and wag their way down the parade route, they also throw out goodies like stuffed animals, beads and rubber poops to the gathered masses. After the procession is complete, the best dressed dogs are awarded “poop trophies” created by local artist Fermanda Cristiani.

If all this sounds too good to be true, wait, because there’s more: For the first time ever, the great minds behind Mardi Paws, which include Vampire Diaries actor and Louisiana native Ian Somerhalder, decided to have a Mutts to Models Ball.

It is common for krewes that walk the Mardi Gras parade routes of Louisiana to host invitation-only masquerade bashes before the big day. The dogs of Mardi Paws decided to join in on the fun this year on Jan. 20, but opened their event to all who wanted to see costumed dogs strut their stuff. (And who doesn’t?)

The adorable evening was hosted by Somerhalder, who spent the night rubbing elbows with the dogs of local veterans, media personalities and philanthropists. Each of the ball’s 40 model pooches were given a moment to shine, walking down the green carpet runway in front of a sold-out crowd.

“We decided to really go for it,” Somerhalder told PEOPLE, admitting that he and wife Nikki Reed enjoy dressing up their own pets, especially their horses.

“Awws” were coming from the audience not just for the pups’ precious looks, but also their amazing stories. Proceeds from the tickets to this “mutt-attend” event, along with registration fees from the Mardi Paws Parade, were donated to the Ian Somerhalder Foundation, a non-profit started by the new dad to help protect pets and foster a sense of community in his home state.

The foundation looks after 100 acres of land, 30 of which are set aside to be used by the community for events, youth activities and pet projects. The other 70 are protected Bayou land.

“I want the idea of animals, youth education and agriculture to bring people together to solve a lot of our big societal uphill battles,” the actor said. “I think that you can do that by building and maintaining a place for the community to come together.”

So while many celebs were indulging in the decadence of Paris Couture Fashion Week, I think we can all agree that Somerhalder got to go to the much cuter gig.

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“It’s pretty funny when your group is made of dogs,” Somerhalder said. “It was really, really special.”

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