Pup Zeo, World Pet 2021, discusses inclusivity, consent, and his goal to educate

World Bear Weekend happened this past August 19th – 22nd, and we now have more members to add to the World Bear family!

This year’s World Pet title was won by none other than Maryland’s AJ Sementilli AKA Pup Zeo! We spoke to Pup Zeo recently about winning the title, plans for the title year, and the importance of consent and acceptance in the Pup and Fetish/Kink communities. 

Kyle Jackson: Can you tell us a bit about your background?

Pup Zeo: I am 35 years old and live in Maryland near Washington, DC. I was born and raised in Erie, Pennsylvania, as an only child to my parents. I attended a local college preparatory school with the anticipation of going to a 4 year college. Due to family turmoil, and asserting my independence, I decided not to apply/attend college immediately after high school, and work for a few years full time. 

At the age of 20, I decided to get an Associates Degree in Computer Information Systems: Network Security/Forensics, which I completed in 2 years. While working as a contractor for a wireless retailer, the opportunity came up to lead my own team of technicians in the DC area, and I sprung on at. 

Within two weeks of accepting the new role, I was moved and set up in a studio apartment in Maryland. Since moving to Maryland, I have held a few roles  at various organizations since then such as an Audio/Video Supervisor, Conference Planning Manager, and Project Manager. My current role is a Project and Systems Manager for a media staffing company based in Virginia. 

While not drinking copious amounts of coffee and working, I enjoy taking roadtrip to visit friends, enjoying an occasional cigar, hiking in the local parks, and continuously learning all that there is in the world. I have been active in the LGBTQIA+ community for over 20 years.  I have volunteered for local pride events, served on the planning committee for Drenched Fur for over 5 years, and volunteered for other events such as Bears Bikers and Mayhem, North American Bear Weekend, and World Bear Weekend event weekends.

KJ: How did you find the Pup community?

PZ: Well, in some ways I think it was always there. When I was a kid, I’d always enjoyed my head being rubbed and being a chaotically good boy. When I was volunteering at a local bear run, I walked in on two friends, and one of them was in a dog collar on the floor next to the other. My brain really didn’t have time to process what was happening because we left the room quickly to attend to an issue. 

Later on that year, I met another friend who identified as a pup at a friend’s house. After chatting for a while, the evening ended up with rubbing his head for an hour. My interest was piqued and started to research more online about Pet Play. I attended local bar nights that were pet themed, and started moshing at events. I chose the name Pup Zeo, for my love of the Power Rangers Zeo series, and was my way to morph into a different person. I also identify as a boy, so I commonly go by bup Zeo (boy pup Zeo).

KJ: When or why did you decide to enter the World Pet contest?

PZ: I decided to enter the World Pet contest after the 2019 event in Cincinnati, OH. Many of the pets were gathered by Adam, one of the producers of World Bear Weekend to gather in the side hallway to promote some upcoming changes. On cue, the pets came out in all of the glory and made a lot of noise to pump up the excitement. 

We learned that there would be an additional category for the following year called “World Pet” that would be added to the family. When I returned to my table in the Ballroom, my friends were encouraging me to run for the title. I thought about it for the following few months and applied after the 2019 holidays. Little did I know due the pandemic, that I wouldn’t actually be able to “run” for the title for another year plus.

To bluntly put it, I wanted change in my life, and to break out of my shell. 2019 was a year of change, to include my mom passing from Primary biliary cirrhosis (autoimmune disease of the liver). My main focuses were being a virtual caregiver to my mom, and working to keep the healthcare and money in the bank account.  

I do identify as a service pup (to be super helpful in any way that I can.), I am typically a very humble person, who doesn’t like a lot of pomp and circumstance. Over the years, I’ve seen many close friends become involved in the bear/leather/pet contest circuit over the past few years, and it was a bit intriguing to continue to support my community.

KJ: What was the best part about participating in the contest?

PZ: One of the best parts about participating in the World Bear Weekend contest was being able to make close connections with the other contestants. Once all of the contestants were announced, we were all put in the virtual chat rooms for contest specific questions, and interacted pre-contest. I do think this was beneficial to build some comradery among the contestants, so it’s not like we didn’t know each other when we finally met in person on the first day of the contest.

Another great part of the contest was to be able to raise money for the amazing charities we were sponsoring this year. Saint Jude’s Children’s Hospital, which was based in Memphis, where the event was held, and Rainbow Railroad, which is a non profit assists LGBTQI+ people escape state sponsored violence.

KJ: What are your goals for your title year?

PZ: My goals this year are pretty simple. To educate through storytelling. I am currently working on multiple workshop ideas regarding pet play, kinks, and conversations about diversity and inclusion in the community. 

While I have a working list of ideas, I have also polled the community to see what people actually are wanting to talk/hear about. It’s also a living and breathing document that can change. I know I am not an expert in every area, but I am hoping to partner with friends and family to support my mission. I’ve seen first hand that the lack of education around these topics have promoted stereotypes and biases, especially around pet play. It’s time to start learning from one another and listen without judgement.

KJ: What are some important issues you think need to be addressed in the Pup/Pet and Leather communities?

PZ: One big issue that I believe many people still take for granted is consent. Just because some identifies as a submissive, doesn’t mean they want to be grabbed by their collar and pulled every which way by someone they don’t know. You wouldn’t pull someone away by their wedding ring would you. 

With that being said, for those in dynamics, every dynamic is unique and should never be assumed. There is also a lot of stigma with Trans/Non-binary folx in the leather and kink communities. Their beautifully tenacious spirits belong as much as anyone who wants to be part of the community. 

In keeping with community acceptance, we need to be inclusive to all pets in the community, not just pups. There are many different types of animals that people identify as, and should be welcomed.

Photo by Entendre Photography

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The dates for World Bear Weekend 2022 have been announced! Visit for more information and to plan your trip!

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Kyle Jackson

Kyle Jackson (He/Him) is Senior Staff Writer at Gray Jones Media, and additionally works as a writer, editor and theatre artist/actor. A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, he studied at Dillard University, received a BA in Theatre from Morgan State University, an MS in Arts Administration from Drexel University, and completed the British American Drama Academy’s Midsummer in Oxford Programme in 2017. Having lived in Baltimore, the Washington, DC area, Philadelphia and New York City, he now resides and works in London, United Kingdom.