Stepping up for the animals

Community donates food to keep dogs, cats fed

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Emma Douglas, a Kootenai Humane Society staff member, serves the evening meal to dogs in the shelter's kennels Friday. Kootenai Humane Society's Community Lifeline for Animal Welfare Services program provides pet food to low-income pet owners. The program is struggling to keep the program running due to a lack of food and increased demand.

COEUR d'ALENE - Like a household with an army of children, the more pups and felines who live at Kootenai Humane Society, the bigger the grocery bill.

At capacity with 40 dogs and 60 cats, KHS is bursting at the seams, and its food supply is starting to become a concern.

"We're sounding the alarm," said Pete Chichester, KHS director.

It's not dire quite yet - thanks to early support from do-gooders once word of their dog and cat food shortage went viral mid-week - but it's getting a little close for comfort.

KHS's pet food supply is running low enough that the donation and grant-reliant nonprofit could have to alter its CLAWS program if things don't get better. CLAWS - Community Lifeline For Animal Welfare Services - is the KHS program that supplies pet food once a month for low-income families who need help feeding their pets. The program has been in place for several years and aids around 60 qualifying families with pet food as a way to prevent them from having to abandon their animals.

But times are tight, and the dog food supply has to go to the KHS animals first, meaning CLAWS families could see the short end if things to improve.

Cutting back CLAWS is a doomsday scenario.

KHS doesn't want to scale back or cut the program, but dipping into other revenues would hamstring the nonprofit elsewhere, so it sent word via Facebook this week that it needs the community's help in the form of donated dog and cat food.

"Amazing," is how Chichester described the response once he sounded the online alarm.

By Friday, several 40 pound bags of food had been dropped off, and the society had enough to ensure the CLAWS giveaway, which is every third Saturday, was up and running Saturday.

"It breaks my heart," said Debbie White, who donated dog food and asked her co-workers to do the same when she learned of the shortfall, on the thought of animals going hungry if things didn't improve. "They're the innocent."

Chichester said it's difficult to ask for help when families everywhere are trying to make ends meet, especially since KHS receives community support, but the circumstances warranted an effort.

"I don't want to abuse the privilege," he said. "But when it comes to food" we have to try.

Early signs say support is on the way.

Dennis Edelbrock, a dog owner who donated a 40-pound bag of food Friday as well as surgical gloves, which KHS also needs, said he wanted to help out to prevent people from surrendering their pets.

"Times are rough," he said. "There's no question times are rough."

Chris McDowell, Administrative Manager at the Kootenai County Humane Society in Hayden, brings out large bags of free pet food to pet owners with financial difficulties. McDowell stated that it would be very difficult for most of the recipients of the free food to have pets without the food program.

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