Karyn Moltzen and AniMeals Champion the Four-footed Hungry And Homeless
Gail Jokerst | Feb 2, 2012, 10:16 a.m.
Karyn Moltzen never intended to become a modern-day Noah. Initially, her only goal was to feed neglected and abandoned pets that were going hungry. But the more cats and dogs Karyn fed, the more she grasped the magnitude of the problem and broadened her focus to include sheltering animals that otherwise would have perished.
As the founder of AniMeals, a no-kill adoption center and animal food pantry, Karyn now oversees a staff of seven employees and 150 volunteers dedicated to feeding and finding homes for lost and unwanted critters. Based in Missoula, the non-profit covers a 50,000-square-mile territory ranging from the Canadian border to Dillon to the Flathead Valley. That makes it the largest animal food bank in the nation. At last count, their waiting-to-be-adopted numbers included 137 cats and kittens that are currently being housed at AniMeals or fed every few hours in foster care homes to keep them alive.
“I didn’t set out to do this; it just happened to me when I realized that some of the people participating in Meals on Wheels had pets that needed to be fed, too,” says Karyn, who has eight cats and two dogs that share her and her husband’s Missoula home. “So I contacted Walmart and some local grocery stores and asked if they had any broken bags of dog or cat food they could donate.”
Indeed, they did. And Karyn got busy filling gallon-size plastic bags with pet food to be delivered to Meals on Wheels recipients along with the hot lunches. Unfortunately, Meals on Wheels did not continue distributing the pet food and Karyn ended up delivering it on her own. Before long, she was also ferrying hundreds of pounds of food per delivery to various rescue groups and no-kill shelters appreciative of the support.
“I did this for two years before telling anyone else about it. I’d hear through the grapevine about different needs and bring over food,” states Karyn, who didn’t go public with her story until 2005 when she got in touch with The Missoulian. Once their article appeared Karyn says, “I was inundated overnight with calls from people who needed food for their pets. The current economy has affected animals to a great degree. Some people have hit the skids and can’t afford to spare anything for their pets. In addition, people are abandoning their pets at a faster rate than those who are finding them and bringing them here.”
Karyn’s mission is to have every cat that’s brought to AniMeals taken home by someone. Occasionally, this happens quickly, as in the case of any Siamese cat that happens to show up. But more often, the adoption process takes longer, especially for black cats.
“They’re the hardest to place because they look so similar,” observes Karyn. “People can’t easily get past the sameness to the personality of the individual animals.”
Although AniMeals has made great strides in assisting Montana’s feline population, helping their canine counterparts has not been as easy. AniMeals’ warehouse home base isn’t large enough or well suited to lodge dogs as well as cats. Consequently, they are seeking ten acres of land around Missoula to provide shelter for homeless dogs.
While Karyn doesn’t post advertisements with pictures of dogs to adopt—as she does for the cats entrusted to AniMeals—she still works ceaselessly to insure no dog in Western Montana goes hungry. For that matter, she won’t allow any animal to go hungry be it a pet or a pig, a horse, bison, emu, goat or camel. And yes, we even have abandoned camels in our state.
When the Montana Large Animal Sanctuary Rescue in Narada went broke, they contacted Karyn to ask for her help to feed 1200 deserted animals including 675 llamas. She sped to their aid.
“Within five minutes of receiving the phone call, I had a semi lined up. In three days, we had it filled with 30 tons of hay and had it delivered,” remembers Karyn. “All of that hay was donated when people learned about the plight of these animals. Since then AniMeals has provided 50 tons more of hay and has another 50 tons of donated hay on the way. The number of animals we’re feeding has continued to go up but so have donations even in this poor economy. People don’t turn off compassion when times get tough. And every donation matters be it five or 500 dollars.”
Should you want to help AniMeals there are many ways to support them. Volunteers and donations of money, pet food, aluminum cans, office and cleaning supplies are always welcome. So are foster and adoptive parents, who can bring home one of the shelter’s felines for $55. That includes—but does not cover—the veterinarians’ fees for spaying or neutering as well as for vaccinating, de-worming, and inserting a microchip to track a lost cat.
Pet owners short on funds but willing to work can participate in AniMeals’ Volunteer Food Exchange Program, which has been very successful. As Karyn explains: “People feel they aren’t just getting a handout, they’re helping. Volunteers put in four hours doing things like cleaning kitty boxes, scrubbing floors, and just sitting with the cats and loving them. That earns them enough food to feed their animal for a month.”
Given that some people in this country go to bed hungry, Karyn gets asked occasionally how she can put the needs of animals before those of humans. She has no problem answering.
“There are all kinds of aid programs to help people but there aren’t any for animals,” she says. “A dog or cat cannot go out and get a job or go to the food bank. They rely entirely on us for their very existence.”
Although some might try to turn the situation into a partisan political issue, Karyn deftly avoids any name-game traps.
“We are not about politics, egos, or agendas. We’re about feeding the animals and want help from everyone,” she emphasizes. “No one cares who you voted for. When you’re saving a life, it’s immaterial where the help comes from.”
For more information visit http://www.animeals.com or call 406-721-4710.