LISBON — More than a ton of pet food and supplies weighed down a Cedar Valley Humane Society van parked at a Casey’s General Store in Lisbon last week.
Humane society employees arrived at noon on April 13 with bags of pet food stacked to the roof of the vehicle. By 1:30 p.m., they had distributed more than half the load and a jar filled with cash donations stood at a table outside the van.
Lisbon residents had flocked to the vehicle to pick up free pet food for themselves or for friends or relatives who are on a fixed income, between jobs or simply want to supplement their pet food budget.
In the last six months, Preston Moore, director of development for the Cedar Valley Humane Society, estimates the organization has handed out several tons of pet food throughout several pop-up pet food banks in various Eastern Iowa towns.
The idea came after the humane society took in or temporarily housed about 100 animals after flooding struck Linn and Benton counties last summer. Moore said he knew homeowners had to fix property damage or had regular incomes disrupted after being away from their homes and jobs for a few days.
Because the humane society has regular donors giving food or supplies for the shelter, Moore said staff began sending pet food home with residents who had temporarily boarded their pets during the flood.
“We knew the last thing a lot of these people were going to be able to think about was feeding their pet,” Moore said. “But there were a ton of people saying, ‘My property wasn’t damaged, but we live paycheck to paycheck.’ ”
That’s when the shelter decided to have a mobile pet food bank.
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“We would ask people, ‘What would it take for you to be able to keep (your pets)?’ If it’s food or litter or basic supplies, we say, ‘Let me give it to you,’ ” Moore said. “Keeping animals in their homes is just as important as helping animals find a home.”
Cedar Valley Humane Society officials announce the pop-up stands through the organization’s Facebook page a few days before each event.
Donations have poured in from individual donors, Moore said. Theisen’s and Walmart stores have sent in bags of food that have been damaged or are about to expire. Though the shelter prefers to give animals protein-rich food, Moore said they will accept any donations.
“A $20 bag of food can make all the difference for someone,” he said.
A few bags of dog food helped Lisbon resident Jennifer Moorer and Lia, her German shorthaired pointer. Moorer received Lia as a service dog a few years ago to help cope with anxiety after she was attacked while jogging.
Lia was diagnosed with cancer this year. Though Moorer said she can’t afford the more than $2,000 surgery, the free bags of pet food help balance out Lia’s medication costs.
Moore said the feedback for the pet food banks has been overwhelmingly positive, and recipients are surprised to hear that the pet food is completely free.
“If (pet owners) can’t afford the food, I think — deep down — people understand what we’re trying to do,” Moore said. “We haven’t had to turn anybody away. We don’t want to see a pay stub or make you sign up for anything, just take it.”
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