Getting Fifi to finance abandoned mutts’ care


By Lori Haught

Animal Haven celebrated the opening of its new Soho space with a gala event on Dec. 12.

While they were shooting to be ready for business by Dec. 13, they have met with some delays.

“I’m not even answering that question anymore,” Marcello Forte, director of Animal Haven, laughed when asked when the 251 Centre St. spot would open. “When we have a couple days left to go, I’ll tell you.”

While the Animal Haven Soho space was filled at the opening with everyone from celebrities like Bernadette Peters, to volunteers from Animal Haven’s Flushing, Queens, location, it is going to be filled with animals up for adoption and pampered pets very soon. In an unlikely combination, it is going to be an adoption center and a pet boutique.

May Pang, an Animal Haven volunteer and proud owner of a rescued Katrina dog, said that she hopes more New Yorkers can come out and adopt now that there is a facility in Soho.

“A lot of people in Manhattan can’t get out to Queens,” she said. “But these little critters are great.”

Pat Sellers, a member of Animal Haven’s board, said she had met Forte and fallen in love with him and Animal Haven at another animal-related event when she learned he had placed a 13-year-old, three-legged dog — that had never had a home in its life — with someone.

Actor Skipp Sudduth adopted a black pup named Frosty at the event and renamed him Sully after the character he played on “Third Watch.”

The goal of the new facility is to make adoption chic. Animal Haven plans to use the sale of pet products, merchandise and grooming services to support the care of the abandoned animals in the adoption center.

“We want to dismantle the perception that you can’t get perfectly happy and healthy puppies and kittens from shelters,” Forte said. He said that often people find shelters to be scary, but by implementing the boutique aspect, they are making this a more welcoming place. “We hope this will be a model for the rest of the country.”

Animal Haven is a nonprofit, no-kill animal shelter that seeks to find homes for abandoned cats and dogs in the tristate area. Currently, its main shelter and medical-care facilities are located in Flushing. It also has a rehabilitation facility Upstate and a mobile adoption program.

While the Soho adoption center hopes to be self-supporting in two years thanks to the boutique, Animal Haven is raising money. During the gala, they asked for donations while holding up a black Labrador puppy.

“That dog wants your money,” one man in the audience laughed.

And the center needs volunteers.

“Did you know that they need people to come in and stroke the cats?” said The Baroness, a New York fetish scene celebrity who has adopted seven cats from the shelter and is a longtime volunteer. While most people think about volunteers walking dogs, she said the cats need love too. As a cat lover, she fell in love with the kittens she fostered for Animal Haven and ended up keeping them. “They’re all tabbies, so that way people don’t know I have so many.”