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Dogs help cause by strutting their stuff

Dogs on a catwalk? That's what you'll find today at a fashion show featuring costumed canines strutting their stuff for a worthy cause.

Although Roxy Star, a Shih Tzu, and Elle Mae, a boxer, are not as famous as Heidi Klum or Kate Moss, they'll be on center stage at the Homeless Emergency Project Center in Clearwater for this charitable event.

The dog fashion show, called Biscuits and Tea, is the brainchild of Candice Looney, who is raising money for a local nonprofit animal shelter, Pet Pal Rescue.

"I'm just a sucker for dogs," Looney said. "They're like my children."

Pet Pal Rescue takes in animals from other Tampa Bay-area shelters that are sick, injured or need extra attention, said executive director Jennifer Forlizzo McCraw.

Pet Pal Rescue opened in St. Petersburg in 2002 and is funded by donations. With a paid staff of four, it relies heavily on more than 70 volunteers. They work with the animals, providing medical attention and behavior modification for as long as it takes to make them suitable for adoption.

"What sets us apart is that we work strictly with animals from other shelters that would usually not be adopted," Forlizzo McCraw said.

The majority of animals at Pet Pal Rescue are dogs, but they also take in cats, birds, rabbits, and ferrets.

"We do not take owner surrenders or strays," Forlizzo McCraw said. They can shelter about 100 animals.

Several Pet Pal Rescue dogs available for adoption will be participating in the Biscuits and Tea fashion show.

Between 15 and 20 dogs will walk the runway, Looney said. The hostess of the event is Bella, Looney's 3-year-old black Labrador retriever, rescued from the Humane Society when Looney lived in Arizona.

Looney, 30, and her fianc, Randall Marcum, financial advisers at Merrill Lynch, are sponsoring the fashion show. Between them they have three rescued dogs.

"I would take on 50 of them if I could," Looney said.

Other event sponsors are Rinat Hadas of Johnson, Pope, Bokur, Ruppel and Burns; Andrea Campagna of Campagna Homes; Dr. Rumore of Lake Seminole Animal Hospital, Homeless Emergency Project; Kris Logan-Walker of Fluffy Puppies.

Two years ago, Logan-Walker, a former chiropractor in St. Petersburg, opened Fluffy Puppies, a store that offers a variety of pet supplies.

"It's just fun," she said. "Dogs bring joy to people."

She said she has been involved with other dog fashion shows and is happy to help out for charitable causes. She is lending the dog costumes for Biscuits and Tea.

"Dogs are just great characters; you never know what's going to happen on the stage," Logan-Walker said.

The Biscuits and Tea event is free. Appetizers and tea will be served. Goody bags will be given out, and there will be raffle prizes. Dog bones from Bella's Barkery will be for sale to raise funds for Pet Pal Rescue.

"I want to grow (this) so that it will make a substantial impact on local animal rescues," Looney said.

Jennie Garraffa of Brooksville had her two dogs outfitted for the fashion show at Fluffy Puppies. Savannah, a golden retriever, and Bear, a Catahoula, will have their first modeling jobs on Saturday.

"It's going to be interesting," Garraffa said. "I've never seen a dog fashion show before, let alone been in one."

If you go

What: Biscuits and Tea dog fashion show

Where: Homeless Emergency Project Center, 1260 Engman St., Clearwater

When: 11 a.m. today

Admission: Free. Goody bags provided. Donations to Pet Pal Rescue accepted.

For more information, call Candice Looney at 727-462-2308 or e-mail candice_looney@ml.com

For more

Pet Pal Rescue, 405 22nd St. S, St. Petersburg, (727) 328-7738. Shelter hours: Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m., petpalrescue.com

Fluffy Puppies, 1447 S Fort Harrison Ave., Clearwater, (727) 446-7999, aplacefordogs.com

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