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By Anne Neville
The largest and most successful pet adoption event in the region will fill the Hamburg Fairgrounds Event Center this weekend with adoptable pets, products and services for animals and their people, and educational and entertaining demonstrations.
The third annual Maddie’s Pet Rescue Project Pet Expo and Super Adoption Event, presented by the PETCO Foundation, runs from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday in the event center, 5820 South Park Ave., Hamburg.
The first year of the event, 78 animals were adopted. “Last year, 98 animals found homes at the expo, and we kind of lost track of how many more might have been adopted immediately afterward as a result of contacts made at the expo,” says Kara Lee, coordinator of Maddie’s Pet Rescue Project in Erie County. This year, organizers hope to send 110 animals home with new families, as well as make countless contacts for future adoptions.
Events and demonstrations provide almost nonstop entertainment. Friday evening kicks off with an obedience demonstration, a canine fashion show and a law enforcement K-9 demonstration, including narcotics detection and bite work. Saturday’s events include demonstrations of obedience, agility, drill team work and clicker training, as well as races through flexible vertical weave poles.
Three contests open to any dog are planned for 1 p.m. Saturday at the main stage. A dog tricks contest kicks off the events, followed by a best dog costume contest and a competition to find the local dog that looks most like a “Star Wars” character, whether it be Yoda, Chewbacca or Darth Vader.
Admission is $6 Friday and $8 Saturday, with children 12 and under admitted free. A coupon published in The News’ Gusto section last Friday and again this Friday reduces the adult admission price by $2.
Leashed dogs are welcome with liability waivers signed at the door, and expect to see breeds of all sizes, from Great Danes and Irish wolfhounds to Yorkshire terriers and Chihuahuas.
For people who work at the shelters and rescue groups that attend the expo, a high point is being reunited with animals they knew when they were homeless. Last year, Suzanne Laba and Gale Ferris, volunteers with the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter, were each visited by dogs they had once fostered or cared for at the shelter. “It gives us goose bumps to see them with their new families and doing so well,” Ferris said.
Although most of the available animals present will be canines or felines, one group, called “Small Pets – Big Hearts” will offer “pocket pets, guinea pigs, gerbils and mice,” says Lee.
The SPCA alone plans to bring 75 kittens, cats, puppies and dogs, says Sloane Terech, the agency’s off-site adoptions coordinator. Many of these animals are from foster homes. The SPCA also plans to offer demonstrations and education.
“The great thing about the expo is how all the departments [at the SPCA] come together,” Terech says, including staff from humane education, wildlife, adoptions and even from the agency’s pet supplies store, the Petique.
“We love the expo,” she says, “especially Friday night’s dog fashion show,” with outfits provided by Animal Outfitters on Elmwood Avenue.
Lee says that the participating shelters, which include the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter, the SPCA Serving Erie County and the Chautauqua County Humane Society, will allow qualified adopters to take animals home with them that day. Most of the breed rescue groups, which find homes for greyhounds, golden retrievers, basset hounds, German shepherds, Siberian huskies and boxers, and some smaller rescue groups “would prefer to talk to people on a one-on-one basis and get to know the people before making a match,” says Lee.
But anyone who adopts an animal from a shelter that day will find “anything they would possibly need” to start off on the right foot, says Lee, including collars, leashes, beds, treats and food sold by 110 vendors.
In addition to the basics, vendors will offer animal-related crafts, artwork, jewelry, fences, classes, pet photography, boarding, grooming, and even housecleaning and yard-cleaning services. A veterinarian and Realtor, as well as a pet funeral home and pet cemetery, will have booths.
“People recognize the value in the show; they see it as a great opportunity to talk with existing pet owners and people who want to be pet owners,” says Lee, who had to turn some vendors away because of space.
“There are other pet-related events in Western New York, but I think this is the premier event,” she says.
Maddie’s Fund was established in 1999 with an endowment of $300 million from Dave and Cheryl Duffield of California, who made their fortune in computer software. Named after the Duffields’ miniature schnauzer, the fund sets up community collaboratives to end euthanasia of healthy or treatable cats and dogs. The SPCA Serving Erie County is the lead agency in Maddie’s Pet Rescue Project in Erie County; other partners are Black Dog, Second Chance, the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter, HEART, Second Chance Sheltering Network and Ten Lives Club.
The local Maddie’s Pet Rescue Project started in October 2009. It is one of eight operating across the country. For a schedule, go to maddieseriecounty.org/petexpo.html.

email: aneville@buffnews.com