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‘Occupy Paw Street’ Protesters get boost from their loyal pals


ZUCCOTTI PARK has gone to the dogs — protest dogs.

Among the 99 percenters that took up residence in the park before the city swept out the tents on Tuesday were dozens of canines, which urged on the marchers while offering a bit of whimsy to a serious cause.

Brett Rothstein, a member of the press working group for Occupy Wall Street, said about 30 dogs were in residence at Zuccotti Park before the crackdown. Jason Holmza of “Occupy Paw Street” said Wednesday more than 10 canines were still among the protesters, including his red nosed pit bull-Lab mix, Neno, and Cheyenne, a German shepherd mix.

Holmza and his girlfriend, Oksana, helped staff the Occupy Paw Street table at the park that provided free pet food, blankets, dog leashes, toys and other pet supplies to fellow protesters. “If their handlers have a better way of life, it affects them too, said Holmza, 34. They're here with us to promote social change.”

Police confiscated all the pet food, but Holmza said donation have again begun to filter in. “We’ve had a rough 48 hours,” he said. “Occupy Paw Street has become more mobile after being evicted. But we’re still the point people for helping the protest animals get any kind of help they need. As long as they’re here I'll be here.”

Many dogs and owners that camped out in Zuccotti Park had tough lives. Larry Yepez, 63, came to Occupy Wall Street from Lathrop, Calif., with Bengi, a Yorkie. “We’re here to stand up for vets’ rights,” said Yepez, an ex-Marine wearing a Purple Heart he said he earned in Vietnam.

Bengi was especially snuggly when greeting fellow Vietnam War vet Jack Fitzgerald, who was shot three times during the war.

“We’re grateful to be alive,” said Fitzgerald, showing the spot on his neck where a bullet entered. “Larry and I were wounded on the same day” 40 years ago.

The canine activists often received preferential treatment during their stay at Zuccotti Park. “She's the people’s dog," said Christopher Brown, 60, of upstate Delhi pointing to Genevieve, a large yellow Lab with a hard-luck past.

“When I found her, she had a broken pelvis and was emaciated from drinking dirty water,” continued Brown, who does anti-war paintings.

There’s an occasional feline on the front lines as well. A Queens woman named Mary Baker showed off her Siamese cat, Munchie. “She’s been to other occupations, like D.C. She travels in my jacket,” says Mary, 19. “She’s an ‘anar-kitty.’ She came from an anarchist house in Brooklyn. We’re here to fight poverty, corruption, greed and police brutality.”

Alisha Filliger, 20, and her boyfriend, Scott, came to Occupy Wall Street from East Lansing, Mich. After a month without their dogs — Luna, an American Staffordshire terrier, and Spenser, a Belgian Malinois — they sent for them.

Filliger said she was working two jobs while attending Michigan State. “Between three incomes and financial aid we were struggling to pay [for] pretty minimal stuff; we don’t have a phone, house or car. Our only extra expense was the dogs.”

Said Scott, “We were watching OWS on live feed. That was our catalyst to come. “The [dogs] offer us protection, support, compassion and warmth.”

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