ITHACA, N.Y. —  At the second annual Ithaca Dog Fest this past Saturday, animal welfare advocates led an effort to find “fur-ever” homes for dogs living in area shelters. About 1,000 attendees gathered in Cass Park to visit with adoptable dogs and raise money for local rescues.

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“We’re supporting, in my mind, a very important part of the community: our four-legged friends. We’re hoping to raise awareness that there are so many wonderful, loving dogs who need a home,” said Pat Malinowski, an organizers and volunteer at Ithaca Dog Fest.

The event hosted nine animal rescues and 26 vendors. In addition to showcasing adoptable dogs to the public, Malinowski said that the event was also meant to help support the rescues financially. Local businesses, including IthaPaws, Buffalo Street Books and Collegetown Crepes, donated over 30 prizes for a raffle to benefit the rescues. Organizers also encouraged rescues to sell merchandise and collect donations.

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Jen Sage, the owner of Bo’s Bones and the primary coordinator for Ithaca Dog Fest, said that the event was good exposure for both the animals and the people who were interested in adopting. While the dogs got to leave the environment of the rescues and socialize with unfamiliar people, attendees who might have been wary about adoption got the chance explore which dog, if any, would be a good fit for them.

“A number of people here are checking out the rescues and thinking about taking a dog home at some point. This is a perfect chance to meet different kinds of dogs and to find out if you’re comfortable around animals or if it only sounds like a good idea,” Sage said.

While the main focus of the event was to encourage adoption from rescues, there was also an educational element to the day. Sage explained that so many dogs are euthanized each year due, in part, to pet owners’ ignorance and overbreeding.

“We have the ability to inflict endless grief and misery on dogs because we’re stupid or careless. Every event where we can find a home for a dog is a good thing, and hopefully we can educate people of the importance of spay and neuter,” Sage said.

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According to Mirian Short, the events coordinator for Helping Hounds Dog Rescue in Syracuse, events like Ithaca Dog Festhelp to eliminate the stigma against dogs in animal shelters.

“A lot of people think that rescue dogs have issues, or baggage that comes with them, so they want to buy one from a breeder,” Short said, “So we are here to show people that they don’t, that they’re wonderful dogs. They’re just looking for a home.”

Event attendees like Molly Ruffo and Kelsey Schmidt, two Ithaca College seniors, said that they both would prefer to adopt a dog from a rescue than to buy one from a dog breeder.

“I would always adopt a dog from a shelter,” Ruffo said, “They’re the dogs that need the homes, whereas breeding is more for the profit. I’ve always had more of a connection with animals from shelters anyway. They have so much love to give.”

Sage said that she believes this year’s Ithaca Dog Fest was successful and is already looking forward to next year’s event, which she has already started planning. She is excited about the possibility of expanding Dog Fest, adding more rescues, having a bigger raffle and perhaps inviting groups involved with therapy and sniffer dogs to do demonstrations.

Ruffo and Schmidt have come to Ithaca Dog Fest for the past two years because of the open and friendly environment the event has created for animals and dog-lovers alike. Even though they will be graduating soon, both said that they are planning on returning for next year’s event.

“Wherever we are, we’ll come back,” Schmidt said.

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