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Pet Project

Wendy Diamond unleashes a magazine and Web site for high-end animal gear

It's a humid september morning, and 29-year-old Wendy Diamond is twirling in a winter coat of fuzzy faux-raccoon. "Can't you imagine people in Aspen loving this?" she chimes. Such are the dreams of the sales-spieling Diamond, a Cleveland-born dynamo with an idea for the times: a new magazine and e-commerce Web site for high-income, high-style animal lovers. (Aimed at those who might lavish a $200 designer dog bed on old Sparky.)

There are dozens of animal magazines, from the venerable Cat Fancy to the bimonthly Ferrets. But Diamond, backed by a secretive cadre of magazine moguls, is the first to cross-breed two American passions: celebrity and pets. In the first 108-page Animal Fair, Mariah Carey mugs with her Russell terrier, Jack, while Renee Zellweger gushes over her dog, Dylan. Riding the star power, Diamond has managed to sign Time Inc. to handle newsstand distribution, while pet chain Petco Animal Supplies Inc. will mail out some 300,000 copies of the quarterly directly to customers.

Diamond conceived the idea after creating two charity cookbooks of recipes solicited from athletes and musicians. The anti-fur Animal Fair will give some profits to animal rights groups and charities. "For a lot of celebrities who can't really go out in public, animals are their best friends," says Diamond. Ditto for the less glam, also: Pet spending should hit $28.5 billion by 2001, up 26% from 1997, according to the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.

So Diamond is thinking big. Animal Fair magazine "is just branding for the Web site." Online, users will be able to sort through 500 high-ticket items, from a $225 cashmere dog sweater to a line of original faux-fur winter coats for humans--with matching designer dog outfits, of course. "If I were normal, I wouldn't be doing this," Diamond jokes. Still wrapped in the fuzzy coat, she does another runway-model twirl and laughs.By Dennis Berman

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