NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. — There are paw prints in the snow leading to the paw prints decorating the side of the Little Free Pet Pantry on Schenck Street near Oliver Street in North Tonawanda.
Jullianne Leslie built the pet pantry there in August 2021 when she had extra food she couldn't use from the Standing Together Animal Rescue Service - or STARS animal rescue - she runs. STARS focuses on cats and small animals like guinea pigs. She said she checked with other rescues first to see if they needed the donations of dog food, bird food and surplus of other items she had, and when they didn't, she decided to give it to struggling neighbors through the Little Free Pet Pantry. Leslie's kept the pantry stocked ever since.
"We've never seen a week where nobody came here. It's always constantly being used," she said. "A lot of people struggle. A lot of people are trying to find jobs, or down on their luck. And we like to try to support them anyway that we can."
The decorated wooden box is located on the side the Escape Room building on Schenck Street. Leslie monitors the pantry through cameras, but mostly it runs on the honor system. A sign reading, "take what you need, give what you can" is on the front of the pantry. Another sign asks those donating to put a line through the bar code so the bags of food can't be returned to a store. Leslie said she never questions how much a person is taking though, because she doesn't know how many pets they have.
In addition to canned and bagged cat and dog food, there are also treats, and an overflow bin next to it with collars, leashes, sweaters and toys.
Leslie said she is so grateful to those who help keep it stocked.
"I've noticed that the pantry will be empty one day and the next day somebody will stop by and fill it up so we definitely have the support of the community."
A number to text - (716) 558-6612 - is posted on the door for a pet owner to make a request for something he or she needs that isn't there. Leslie says she never wants to a person struggling to have to choose between feeding themselves or feeding their animals.
"It makes me happy to know that there are animals out there that are still being fed and taken care of because their owners come out here and grab what they need to help their animals in need," she said.
A Girl Scout troop in Kenmore also built a Little Free Pet Pantry at 166 East Hazeltine. They have a Facebook page here. Leslie encourages others to consider building a pet food pantry and be "Good Neighbors" to people and animals alike.
To nominate a "Good Neighbor" to be featured by WGRZ's Melissa Holmes, send an email to Melissa.Holmes@wgrz.com. To see other "Good Neighbors" featured on Channel 2 News, click the links below.