As the holidays approach, at least one Juneau nonprofit is thinking of man’s best friends and cats, too.
“Around Christmas time, there’s lots of food drives,” said George Utermohle, board member of Grateful Dogs of Juneau, in a phone interview. “We want to make sure the pets have nutritious food, so people who are suffering from food insecurity don’t have to share with their pets during the holiday.”
The drive will run from Monday, Dec. 7 to Sunday, Dec. 13, and aims to collect dog and cat food for pets around Juneau, Utermohle said. Other organizations handle the distribution to reduce risk and ensure pet food goes where it’s needed, Utermohle said.
“Due to COVID this year, we’re doing just two collection centers. Petco and Southeast Alaska Animal Medical Center,” Utermohle said. “We supply food to the Juneau food bank. We distribute also through the Helping Hands organization and some of the local food pantries.”
Beginning in 2009, the pet food drive is in its 11th year, Utermohle said. Usually there are more locations for the drive, but with the coronavirus, they’ve cut it down to just two.
“We usually get about 600-1,200 pounds during the holiday food drive, and that generally lasts us a couple months. Last year we got maybe 1,100 pounds in our Christmas drive. After the Christmas drive, we collected around seven tons,” Utermohle said. “We also collect cat food but we never seem to get enough.”
The organization reapportions food for maximum effectiveness in delivery across Juneau, Utermohle said.
“We collect the food, break it down into usable portions – about five or six pounds – and distribute it through the food banks. It’ll go further that way,” Utermohle said. “We get a lot of food from individuals, but there are some businesses in town that share through us.”
Dry food is acceptable even if it’s been open, Utermohle said, such as if a picky eater won’t touch it or if that pet has passed away.
“We appreciate the purchase of new, fresh dog food, but if they’ve got a bag they opened that their dog or cat won’t eat, as long as it’s still wholesome, we’ll accept it,” Utermohle said.
They do not have the ability to accept more esoteric foods, such as bird food or feed for reptiles, Utermohle. Ordinarily, Juneau Animal Rescue would run a food pantry, but it’s been shuttered with the coronavirus to reduce risk, Utermohle said.
Grateful Dogs of Juneau will also occasionally pass on the largesse of Juneau to surrounding cities, such as Haines, Gustavas, Angoon and Hoonah, Utermohle said.
“On occasion, when we have an adequate amount of pet food, we make it available to surrounding communities. It’ll depend on what their needs are and what we have on hand at the time,” Utermohle said. “We really appreciate the support of the community.”
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.