Stocking the Pantry … for Pets

Veterinarian Danielle Oetker, DVM, has been involved in PAAWS’ central mission, low-cost spaying and neutering of cats and dogs, since 2010. She performs an average of 30 to 35 operations four days a week. (Photo/Nancy Hanson)

Nancy Edmonds Hanson

Minn-Kota PAAWS has been helping cats and dogs find loving homes for almost 20 years. Now, thanks to a new partnership with a national charity, the local nonprofit has taken a big step to keeping them there.

PAAWS — People Advocating Animal Welfare Services — is best known for its low-cost spay and neuter operation. Established by local volunteers in 2004, the organization’s veterinarian, Danielle Oetker DVM, operates on 30 to 35 animals four days a week. In 2021, that included 5,201 animals — not only house pets, but also barn cats, ferals and strays. Three-fourths of Dr. Stoker’s four-legged patients are felines.

Less widely known is the emergency food pantry it has operated for years. When supplies are available, the agency provides temporary cat and dog food to pet owners who need a helping hand. Those rations have been limited, however, by what they have on hand.

Now that supply has been multiplied dramatically … to the point that PAAWS has pet food to share with other rescue organizations throughout the region. With the help of volunteer Erin Buick, the Fargo-Moorhead organization has forged a new partnership with a national charity called Greater Good, which provides truckloads of wet and dry dog and cat food as well as kennels and other pet-keeping supplies.

Erin, a long-time foster mom for homeless dogs, was instrumental in securing the partnership, through which PAAWS acts as an ambassador and distributor for the national organization. Based in Seattle, Greater Good collects “seconds” that can’t be put on retail shelves — products that have been returned or deemed unsaleable because of damaged packages and other issues that don’t affect the wholesomeness inside. Donors include major pet-food companies like Purina and companies that sell their products — Chewy, Petco, Petsmart and more.

Greater Good in turn offers those supplies available to partner agencies all over the country. They pay as little as 15 cents on the dollar for the service. PAAWS and other recipients have no choice in what’s aboard the truckload that periodically arrives at their door; they only know that all of it will help feed and care for four-legged beneficiaries.

As an ambassador, the F-M organization can distribute that windfall of pet supplies to other rescue groups throughout the region. Most of its first truckload of 23 pallets, which arrived Oct. 24, has already been picked up by rescue groups in Grand Forks, Bismarck, Dickinson and two North Dakota reservations, as well as 4 Luv of Dog in Moorhead and PAAWS’ own emergency pantry. Only three pallets from that first welcome shipment remain.

“It’s a big expansion of what we’ve been doing for years,” executive director Amy Karachi explains. “Now we can help other rescue groups in other communities. They can use everything we can provide.”

More semis will be coming in months to come. “Our biggest hurdle is finding storage space,” Erin observes. “Our volunteers have to unload and sort the pallets, then get them ready to be picked up.” PAAWS’ new location at 1517 32nd Ave. S. in Fargo lacks space for those operations. She and PAAWS are looking for companies or other organizations that have a little room to spare or for donors willing to help with rent.

“We always need donations — food, supplies, time, money,” Amy reports. The organization depends on grants from the Humane Society of the U.S. and American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for the bulk of its $450,000 annual budget. Pet Smart Charities, the Pet co Foundation and Bis sell also help with support. Locally, Giving Hearts Day is a major source of support.

Its Fargo-Moorhead volunteers also help underwrite the agency’s expenses, including six full-time and one part-time employees. One big annual fundraiser is taking place this weekend at Pet co. Carol Goebbels and friends are selling their handmade pet-friendly tabletop Christmas trees there — festive centerpieces on which the ornaments are securely wired to the branches. They’ll be on hand with their crafted decor from 10 am. to 6 pm. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The bottom line: Minn-Kota PAAWS works tirelessly to make life better for cats and dogs and the people who care passionately about them. Their emergency pet food pantry, and their expanded relationship with other rescues, help make sure those furry friends are fed.

“Sometimes there are unexpected bumps in life, both for people and their pets,” Erin observes. “The emergency food pantry helps us make sure pets can stay in good, safe homes, even when the going gets a little rough.”

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