“My goal is to have every animal go to sleep at night with food in their stomachs, a warm bed, and a loving forever home.”
It’s with that in mind that local resident Debbie Marcellus started out on her mission to open Cold Lake’s first pet food bank.
“Pets are family. You don’t give up your family just because you can’t feed them one meal. I think people want and need this; people love their animals,” Marcellus told the Regional last week.
The pet food bank officially opened its doors right before Christmas 2016, serving half a dozen people in the first day. To date, it’s provided 26 families with food for pets of all types, and has been met with phenomenal support from local donors.
“This isn’t just myself, it’s a community effort and the community has really come together,” said Marcellus, adding she’s received both cash and food donations from businesses such as Pet Valu and Furniture Galaxy, as well as groups like Lakeland Trail Riding Friends.
“Just (earlier this month) I had two gentlemen show up at my door with a truck load of food… We have had tremendous support, everybody has come back and said ‘we need this.’”
The idea all started when Marcellus received a phone call from Marie Jennings, who runs the Alberta Lost Pet Locator and Rescue – the pair met about a year and a half ago when Marcellus started adopting pets from the rescue. It’s Jennings’ goal to start up 14 pet food banks province-wide, and she was hoping Marcellus would help her reach that.
“She called me up one night and said ‘what do you think about running a pet food bank?’ It took me a couple of seconds because I had never really thought about it… I didn’t really know they existed,” explained Marcellus. “I said it sounds like a good idea, with the economy the way it is right now, people could probably use it.”
She added, “We want to eliminate some of the financial problems for families, because unfortunately, it’s usually the animals that end up suffering.”
With the exception of farm animals, the pet food bank caters to all kinds of creatures from dogs and cats to hamsters, birds, and turtles, provided the donations keep rolling in.
Recently, Marcellus was offered a new space to run the program in the back of Herbs For Less, where she’s open for pets in need on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Planning for the long-term, to allow for more food donations, she’s in the process of finding a new location with a greater storage capacity and the ability for the food bank to be set up permanently. Residents can also expect to see donation bins popping up around town.
“We have a lot of work ahead, but it’s a good cause and the pets deserve our love and support.”
However, her mission goes beyond providing food for animals in need. As part of her plight to ensure every pet has a loving, forever home, Marcellus is hoping to start a spay and neuter program.
Modeling it after a group out of Calgary, local veterinarians would volunteer their time to travel to areas where the surgery isn’t as common, such as native reserves. The spay or neuter would be free for owners, with the pet food bank fundraising to pay for the medication needed to perform them.
“We want to get people spaying and neutering their pets so we can take care of the ones that are already here,” said Marcellus.
To help raise money for the food bank, and the program should it get up and running in the future, Marcellus plans on forming a fundraising committee. Anyone wishing to volunteer at the pet food bank, or if you’d like to sponsor or donate to the cause, contact Marcellus at 780-812-8348.