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Cape youth collects pet food at birthday to donate to pet pantry

By Staff | Aug 5, 2009

Kaliegh Lenartz wants people to know that animals in Lee County are starving and they need our help.
The Cape Coral youth celebrated her 12th birthday Saturday by collecting food for needy pets.
In lieu of gifts, Kaliegh asked her friends to bring along cat and dog food to donate to the Lee County Animal Services’ pet pantry.
Kaliegh and her father, Jim, plan on dropping off the roughly $300 worth of collected food today.
“I know right now that the economy is really bad and they (Lee County Animal Services) could really use a boost,” she said.
Kaliegh’s efforts highlight an often forgotten side of the economic turmoil — that family pets are starving, too.
As people in Lee are having increasing difficulty feeding their families, pets are frequently abandoned at Lee County Animal Services facilities, according to spokeswoman Ria Brown.
Brown said they have started offering services like the pet pantry, which is a food bank for pets, in hopes of encouraging people to not part with a member of their family.
“If it’s an economic reason they’re surrendering their pets, we want them to keep their pet in their home,” she said. “We can provide a variety of ways for people to keep their pets.”
Along with the pantry, Lee County Animal Services offers medical care for families that cannot afford a costly visit to a veterinarian.
The challenge, now, is keeping the pantry shelves full, a task that has proved difficult for all food banks across Lee County.
The food “goes out as fast as it comes in,” said Brown, who credits the efforts of people like Kaliegh who step up to help stock the pet pantry.
“If a child can think of that, more adults should as well. She’s wonderful,” she said. “She’s setting a great example.”
Inspiration to collect the food came from Lee County Animal Services itself, which the Lenartzes adopted a golden retriever from four years ago.
“She sees what’s happening economically and she knows what joy this dog has brought to our life,” Jim Lenartz said. “She really sees the ones that are suffering are innocent, and the innocent are the animals.”
Though she has no formal plans, Kaliegh said she wants to try and collect more food for the pantry in the future.
She is thankful for Lee County Animal Services, and the happiness it has brought her and her family.
“They helped me out a lot,” Kaliegh said. “They inspired me and gave me a big part of my life.”