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Fundraiser to bring smooches from pooches

Maria Gross, founder of animal rescue group Courageous

Maria Gross, founder of animal rescue group Courageous Cats, lets Amanda Kammerdener pet Nala and Simba at the "Paws for a Cause" fundraiser in Malverne. (April 29, 2012) (Credit: Handout)

At the kissing booth that will be set up in the backyard of the Joseph L. Landers Memorial Restoration home in Malverne later this month, the smooches will come from pooches.

It’s just one of the ways Courageous Cats and Fur Babies, two local rescue groups, will be raising funds for homeless animals at their second annual outdoor fair on April 28.

From 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., the event will also feature “paw-painting,” pet massages, portrait sessions, a bake sale, vendors and raffles, with proceeds going to the rescues. There will be demonstrations by a dog trainer, a veterinarian will answer questions and a priest will bless all the animals. Attendees are asked to donate a bag of cat food or kitty litter. Last year’s event brought in two tables of pet supplies, raised $1,000 and led to eight adoptions.


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Once again, both groups will be bringing roughly two dozen adoptable cats and dogs.

“I don’t think people realize how many animals need loving homes,” said Kristen Prelesnick, 30, of East Rockaway, who started Fur Babies 10 years ago. “When they come and actually meet our dogs and see what great mutts they are, it really does change a lot of attitudes.”

Throughout the day, the public can meet the animals -- which have been vaccinated, and neutered or spayed -- and begin the adoption process. If they bring a reference from a veterinarian, they may even be able to bring home their new pet, Prelesnick said.

Fur Babies has found homes for nearly 600 dogs since its inception, and Courageous Cats has rescued roughly 500 felines off the streets since Maria Gross, 44, of Malverne, started the group. Both rely on volunteers to foster the animals until they are adopted. Courageous Cats also places some of its rescues at PetSmart in Valley Stream.

Gross and her small team trap and neuter stray cats in Elmont, Valley Stream, Lynbrook, Malverne, West Hempstead and Rockville Centre. They usually release the felines back into the neighborhood where they found them, but will keep them if the area appears to be unsafe. The group currently has 60 cats in their care.

Prelesnick’s deaf boxer, Bailey, inspired her to adopt her first rescue, because she wanted him to have playmate. Over the years, Bailey helped care for the dogs she fostered in her home, but has since passed away.

“He was like the Poppa Dog to them,” she said. “In his memory, I try to help as many as I can.”

The Joseph L. Landers Memorial Restoration, home of the Malverne Historical Society, is located at 369 Ocean Ave.

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