Paws for the camera

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Canine models take the spotlight for the Pet Fashion Show


  • Best in show winner Elizabeth, Mason and Joanna Colon with models. Photo: Chris Dastoor

  • Best in show presentation, including (from left to right) Greg Oehler, Joanna Colon (holding award), Mason, Elizabeth Colon, Ada Nieves and Harrison Forbes. Photo: Chris Dastoor

Country couture for animal rescue was the theme of the 15th annual New York Pet Fashion Show, held February 8 at the Hotel Pennsylvania Penntop Ballroom.

The evening’s emcee was the animal behaviorist and celebrity pet expert Harrison Forbes, dressed in his own cowboy get-up in the spirit of the show’s theme.

“It’s a testament to pets and animals, there’s no language barrier, people just like to see the fashion all over the world,” said Forbes.

“My favorite moments are the heartwarming ones, like the woman who two years ago had found a pug almost dead in the Coachella desert. Now here it is walking down the runway in New York City, completely healthy. Those rags to riches stories for some of the animals involved are special to me.”

The highlight of the evening was the contest for best in show, won by Joanna Colon, her sister Elizabeth Colon, her niece Mason, and her dogs Chuchi, Tobi and Izzy. Joanna designed the costumes, and this was her first award since she first started participating in the show in 2013.

“I’ve been a designer most of my life: architect, interiors, fashion, jewelry. I love to create. I started doing dog costumes to keep my chihuahua warm and then just went crazy with it,” says Colon.

Over 700 people attended the show, with more than 80 contestants making their way down the catwalk (or dogwalk), including 25 entrants for the best in show competition. Chairman Greg Oehler says the show was reaching 3 million viewers internationally as of the weekend, and is expected to reach tens of millions soon.

Ada Nieves has been co-chair of the New York Pet Fashion Show since its inception.

“The concept is keeping the industry and community together by networking, coordinating and helping create awareness on the issues,” Nieves says. “People here have their own social media with a lot of followers and friends that will listen, so it raises awareness in a chain reaction.”

The central issue this year was dog flu. Merck Animal Health was one of the sponsors of the event and works to raise awareness on the issue, which people can learn more about at

“Dog flu is a big epidemic happening around the United States, not only are we getting the flu, but it’s so bad the viruses are passing to the dogs and they are getting sick,” Nieves says.

“We are trying to educate the public to save as many as animals as we can by vaccinating before they get sick, to prevent it,” she says. “It doesn’t stop them from getting it, but it’s going to help it not be as bad if they do get it, so they can survive.”

Forbes notes that the fashion aspect of the event is a particular draw.

“Pet charity comes in a lot of forms, there’s fundraisers for shelters, but when you have the fashion side to it, it’s just another niche element of the pet industry where everybody can come together for a good purpose,” he says.

Although dogs dominated the show, Nieves says other creatures are welcome. Cats, guinea pigs, chickens, lizards and even a turtle walked down the runway.

“The pet arena is so big and includes so many animals. Right now, there are people who have tarantulas, rats, lizards, snakes, all different pets people identify with,” Nieves says. “We want these people to know they aren’t alone and to know we are an industry that caters to their needs.”

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