Getting animals adopted

Local ‘Paws Fest’ a success with kids, teachers, pet owners

Strong winds and a steady rain could not stop county residents from rescuing, caring for, and adopting four-legged friends when a group of animal advocate groups hosted Paw Fest at Ellsworth Park in Union City on Saturday, Oct. 3.
While much of the eastern seaboard was hunkered down, safe, warm, and dry in their homes, dozens of residents from Hudson County brought their animals to the third annual celebration for free or low-cost services for their pets, including rabies vaccinations and microchipping.
The Lucky Cat rescue (TLC) and Hudson County Friends of Ferals hosted the event. The North Shore Animal League of New York came with its adoption vehicle. Three cats had found new homes by mid-afternoon. New Jersey Animal Control and Rescue, which has contracts with Union City, Weehawken, North Bergen, and Guttenberg, also attended.
For Denise Pona of Bayonne and her husband, their 14-mile drive was a mini-mission
of mercy. Pona said that a neighborhood cat that had just given birth brought her three kittens, one by one, to the Pona residence. Since the Ponas have a Maltese dog which is “not cat friendly,” they decided to attend and donate the kittens.
“They’re going to take them and adopt them out,” Pona said. “I feel like I am saving them. It makes me feel wonderful.”
Arianne Ramirez of Union City was feeling pretty good, too. She was at the festival with her Yorkie “Toby” getting him his distemper/rabies shot for $20. It costs $70 at a veterinarian. Ramirez was getting Toby a microchip also.
Andy Krochalk of West New York attended the festival as a TLC volunteer. He was trying to find a home for “Mystique,” a stray dog found wandering the streets of Weehawken.
“I grew up with animals in Wisconsin, we had dogs in the house,” Krochalk said, as he and Mystique palled around by curbside.
Joan of Weehawken, who gave only her first name, was also volunteering for TLC and said the Paw Fest is the perfect place to find a pet. The animals are all spayed/neutered, and their shots are up to date. But there was another important reason.
“The cats live with us. We know their personalities, whether their good with children,” Joan said. “We can better match people to the animals. We can pick those better suited to them.”
Other Weehawken residents were out in force. These included Mark Brower, Ranjit Lalvani, and Sherry Cassin of Gregory Avenue. The three know firsthand the need to keep the cat population in check and find homes for those that can be domesticated.
They deal with a feral cat colony on their block, and have conducted a trap/neuter/release (TNR) program at their own expense.
“We want to keep them healthy, happy, and contained but not procreating,” Brower said. He has five cats, and all rescued animals.
All three were happy with the turnout despite the rain.
“Just the fact that people are coming today with a nor’easter, that’s a statement in itself,” Lalvani said. “It just goes to show that people do care about animals.”

Kids helping out

Even local schoolchildren chipped in to help the animals. Fourth- and fifth-grade students at the Colin Powell Elementary School on 15th Street in Union City had sketched and painted pictures of cats that were for sale, according to Union City resident Angela Ottomanelli, a Union City Board of Education supervisor working with art teacher Lina Woods. By early afternoon, four pieces had sold for $30 each.

Kissing bandit

At the end of the day, one of the animals had a new name: Champion. Union City resident Haydee Forero’s dog, Princess, won first place in the Paw Fest Kissing Contest category and won a blue ribbon and basket full of gifts.
Husband and wife Miguel Fernandez and Mercedes Garcia of Union City lead the TLC effort. For more information, Fernandez can be reached at (201) 988-6518 or

Joseph Passantino may be reached at

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