Homeless pets strut down 700 fashion catwalks

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DULUTH, Minn. — The glitz and glamor of a fashion runway show isn't what comes to mind when people think of animal shelters. But the clothing retail chain maurices, might be changing that perspective.

Through the Rescues and Runways campaign, maurices is pairing with local animal shelters to put on “fashion shows” where models, wearing the brand's designs, hit the runway with a dog that's up for adoption. 

“We're trying to create awareness with our customers around the country,” said David Jaffe, CEO and president of maurices. “This is the first of 700 of these we're going to do to make sure people don't forget about our four-legged friends.”    

In front of a large crowd packing the Miller Hill Mall, the kick-off event took place on August 26 in Duluth, the headquarters of maurices, owned by Dress Barn, Inc.

While some of the animals seemed to lap up the attention, others where looking for treats in order to strut their stuff down the “dogwalk.” 

Behind the glitz and glamour of the fashion show, fun is a literal lifeline for shelter directors like Jim Filby Williams who oversees the Animal Allies Humane Society in Duluth.     

“The economy is driving a huge increase in the number of animals becoming homeless and driving a decrease in donations to shelters,”  said Filby Williams.  “And as a result, shelters, particularly 'small town' shelters, are struggling like never before.”     

The success of the national Rescues and Runways campaign will be determined by the amount of money raised, supplies collected and animals adopted. At the Duluth event, more than 20 animals found new homes.       

“The adoptions have just been phenomenal,” said Stefanie Kemp, who modeled in the show and also handles adoptions at Animal Allies Humane Society in Duluth.    

Just like the dogs, many of the models in the show have no runway experience.  But several participants say they'd do just about anything if it means finding voiceless animals a loving family.     

“It's one of the causes that I feel really strongly about and I've always just wanted to help them out in any way I can,” said Rescues and Runways model Cassie Limpert.  “And in this case it's a fashion show and modeling clothes and if that's the way to get these animals adopted, that's what I'm gonna do.”

Rescues and Runways will also raise supplies and funds for local animal shelters and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.     

“It's just a super-fun way to do something different and exciting while raising awareness for such a critical and important issue,” said Elysia Howard of the ASPCA.     

There are 700 more fashion shows in 44 states happening across the country in September. To find a nearby location, visit RescuesandRunways.com.

Emily Oz is a correspondent for Zootoo Pet News and can be reached at eoz@zootoo.com.

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