POCATELLO — A recent donation of about 1,000 pounds of dog and cat food to the Bannock Humane Society in Pocatello was a godsend for the organization, according to society President Danielle Ekstrom.
Animal activist Shannon Leavitt of Pocatello, who has for the past eight years sat in the entry to Albertsons supermarket during the holidays and collected cat and dog food for the Bannock Humane Society, recently collected the pet food and delivered it to the society’s building on Barton Road.
Leavitt’s efforts this Christmas season filled the building’s back room with over $10,000 of bagged dog and cat food.
And just in the nick of time. The society was down to slim pickings, Ekstrom said.
“We were low,” Ekstrom said. “We had maybe two or three small bags of dog food, which is not going to go very far obviously.”
She said they didn’t have much cat food, either. So Leavitt’s donations all helped provide free pet food to pet owners in need.
“It makes a huge impact for us,” Ekstrom said. “Normally this time of year and with the COVID thing going on we can have upward of 100 people coming through (every couple of weeks) and getting cat and dog food.”
She estimates Leavitt’s donations amounted to about $14,000 worth of dog and cat food. And the cash donations Leavitt raised came to a little over $3,500, Ekstrom said.
As a result, the society’s dog and cat food supply will likely last into March, Ekstrom said.
“Even with there being more food there’s also a lot more people who are kind of in a bad spot right now with COVID going on,” she said.
So all the help from generous local volunteers like Leavitt is crucial.
“If it wasn’t for these people we wouldn’t be able to do what we do,” Ekstrom said.
She says they also get broken bag donations from Walmart on a weekly basis. That’s when pet food bags break and Walmart gives them away for free in cardboard boxes.
Ekstrom says it helps a lot, but more food is always needed.
“If we’re out we do need to turn people away,” she said.
She says she’s even heard of people having to sometimes feed their pets with what little human food they have that they would otherwise have eaten themselves.
“Some people will feed their animals before they feed themselves,” Ekstrom said.
The Salvation Army has also on occasion provided some dog and cat food to the Humane Society.
If necessary, Ekstrom can also drive to the animal shelter in Boise to get pet food if there’s extra there. That shelter is large enough that it gets donations from the food manufacturers, she said.
Sometimes people have to even let their pets, particularly cats, out to forage whatever food they might be able to find when budgets are tight, Ekstrom said.
Sometimes people will even feed their dogs road kill, but that can give them worms.
Food donations also help feed the animals being cared for in Humane Society foster homes.
“Unlike the Pocatello shelter we don’t typically house animals on the premises,” Ekstrom said. “Most of these animals are in foster homes with people that are willing to take care of them and help them recoup and recover and bring them to adoptions so we can find them new homes.”
She says Leavitt’s big food donation will even help make up for the shelter having to cancel its usual summer, fall and Christmas fundraisers due to COVID-19.
“It’s a lifeline and it makes a huge impact not only on us, but bottom line it makes an impact for our community,” Ekstrom said.
Ekstrom said the funds raised by Leavitt are helping to relieve stress for people with dogs and cats during the pandemic.
“So it does kind of trickle throughout the entire community,” Ekstrom said.
And the whole effort started eight years ago when Leavitt got the OK to station herself at the entrance to Albertsons in Pocatello to collect cash donations and pet food to aid the Bannock Humane Society.
This year Leavitt and her daughter Lindsay were there on Dec. 10, 11 and 12 for an overall total of about 15 hours.
That helped net the sizable donations of pet food and cash.
And the effort now gets support from a broad array of community residents and businesses for what Leavitt calls Christmas for the Animals.
“It was really cool that there were so many people willing to help out this year,” Leavitt said.
She says the effort wouldn’t be possible without community support.
“It’s going to help a lot of people and I’m so thankful to everybody that came together and helped us out,” Leavitt said.
But she emphasizes that she doesn’t take credit for it.
“It was everybody who donated and the whole community,” Leavitt said. “They are the real heroes — not me.”
People who donated their time and effort and funds included the following: the Leavitt family (Shannon, David, Ashton, Kaden and Lindsay), Cheyenne Berg, Dreytan Lugo, Jordon Carlos, Dave Lowry, Scott Webb, Carson Webb and Jake Bloxham.
Business donations came from Albertsons, Fusion Fabrication, Star Route Brewery, Diamond Peak Health Care, Spartan Steel, Ef.Fin Barbershop and Performance Outdoor Advertising.