By: Ashish Tiwari, Web Content Coordinator, Ottawa Paw Pantry

What do you do as a pet lover when you see that pets are being abandoned in your city by their families because they can’t afford to feed them anymore?

Laura Lamarche – a young, energetic foster dog parent – is one such animal lover who decided to do something about it.

In 2016, Laura took a shot at solving this alarmingly common problem by starting a pet food resource from scratch. As of August 2019, the Ottawa Paw Pantry (OPP) has helped more than 500 families across the city.

Laura with her dog

Laura with her dog Scully

From a little girl who loved dogs and cats to spearheading a registered not-for-profit pet food organization, Laura has big dreams about helping our four-legged companions.

But what exactly is the story behind Ottawa Paw Pantry? How did it come into being? What was Laura’s “I gotta do something about it” moment?

“It all started with a non-for-profit organization called Sit With Me Dog Rescue,” says Laura. “They are a team of volunteers that assess dogs at the shelter in the Ottawa-Gatineau area and make recommendations for adoptability.”

“While volunteering with Sit With Me, I found out that many dogs were being relinquished to shelters by their owners, which led me to wonder why. So, I sat down with a couple of friends to brainstorm ideas to address that issue and we had to assume that some were being given up for financial reasons. As a result of that, Ottawa Paw Pantry was born in 2016.”

It was not so easy for her in the beginning. As she recalls, she and a couple of her friends were just “a bunch of pet lovers” who had no idea about where to get started; how to get help from people, how to secure funds, and how to let potential clients know. All they knew was that they had a great idea.

“I have always believed that a great dream is something that scares you a little bit,” says Laura. “If your dream doesn’t make you nervous, then you should think bigger.”

picture of food donations to ottawa paw pantry

Some food donations to the Ottawa Paw Pantry

Initially, Laura was quite overwhelmed and nervous. But gradually, it all started falling in place – she and friends launched the official OPP website, started up its social media pages and initiated conversations with people in the area.

She went on to make some connections with existing food banks and community outreach groups in Ottawa so that they could tell their clients about the service. As the word spread, they started getting more and more client applications.

In the beginning, OPP became known to the community, mostly through word of mouth. Interestingly, they had their first client through a connection even before they uploaded a full-fledged client application form on the website!

“In a matter of 4 months, OPP turned from ‘wow, this is a brilliant idea!’ to a growing food resource,” says Laura.

Laura hopes to see OPP become a full-fledged pet food organization with paid staff one day. “Our dream is that if we help prevent the abandonment of even one pet, we can consider OPP a success.”