Shelter looks to Laguna for aid

Animal Crackers Pet Rescue's new shelter isn't much to look at now — just a spacious room in a Laguna Woods strip mall with packing materials lying around and grooves in the concrete floor showing where walls will be.

The staff, though, already has a vivid picture of how the facility will look when funds and permits come in. Tuesday afternoon, founder Gina Katzenbedian and volunteer Jeannie Poshek gave an informal tour of the facility and pointed out the spots for the sofa, the kitchen, the rest area and the flat-screen TV.

Yes, the TV. Before the animals at the former Laguna Beach shelter find permanent adoptive homes, the owners want their lives to be as cozy as possible.

"They actually watch, and then they start barking at it," said Katzenbedian, who cited Animal Planet's "Puppy Bowl" as a favorite canine show.

Animal Crackers, which moved out of its Laguna Beach location in December after its lease expired, needs approvals from the Orange County Fire Authority and the city of Laguna Woods before it can move its animals into the new space. But it will also need plenty of funds, and the owners hope to put a dent in that amount Wednesday with the shelter's third annual benefit at Mozambique.

The restaurant, at 1740 S. Coast Hwy. in Laguna Beach, will host entertainment, raffles, silent and live auctions and more from 6 to 9 p.m., with a $25 recommended donation. This year will mark the second time Mozambique has stepped up for the shelter; the Marine Room Tavern hosted the fundraiser the first year.

Mozambique may be a natural fit for an animal shelter benefit. General Manager George Poulos noted that the staff keeps about half a dozen birds near the front entrance. Last year, the event raised about $22,000 for the cause.

"The ownership here is very generous," Poulos said.

At last year's fundraiser, siblings Whitney and Ian Winefordner, who serve as junior dog walkers for the shelter, performed "Gina's Song," a tune they wrote in honor of Katzenbedian. Among the items on Wednesday's program is the debut of the song's music video, which features some of the shelter's dogs.

Right now, the shelter's animals are in the hands of two dozen volunteers who have agreed to serve as foster parents. Poshek said that under the current circumstances, Animal Crackers has mostly stopped taking in new animals.

"We're very anxious to get this finished so we can bring them back here and start adopting them out, and so that we can bring in more pets that need to be rescued," she said.

If You Go

What: Animal Crackers' third annual fundraiser

Where: Mozambique, 1740 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach

When: 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday

Cost: $25 recommended donation

Information: (949) 454-0800 or

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