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Oscar Nominee Donates Pet Food to MN Rescue

Barkhad Abdi and Captain Phillips co-star Tom Hanks (Photo: Hollywood Reporter)

Barkhad Abdi and Captain Phillips co-star Tom Hanks
(Photo: Hollywood Reporter)

Local animal rescue Midwest Animal Rescue Services (MARS) had more than one reason to celebrate National Dog Day yesterday: a delivery of 2,000 pounds of food arrived on their doorstep, courtesy of Captain Phillips actor and Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee Barkhad Abdi.

The donation was facilitated by Ellen DeGeneres’ pet food company, Halo, Purely for Pets, in partnership with FreeKibble.com and GreaterGood.org. These companies joined up to give 20 non-winning Oscar nominees 10,000 doggie meals to donate to the animal rescue of the celebrity’s choice.

While most celebrities donated to Los Angeles shelters, Abdi joined an elite group of actors (including Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep) who chose to donate outside of LA. Having lived in Minnesota since 1999, he wanted to give to a rescue in his adopted home state. And MARS couldn’t be happier about it.

“I don’t even know if Barkhad has any animals,” laughs Lynn Totino, Marketing and Promotion Manager for MARS. “But I was contacted by his agent, who I believe also contacted a few other [rescues in Minnesota] to learn about where they could donate. I heard back a few days later that they had picked us.”

According to Abdi’s agent Donna Massetti, that’s more or less how it went. “When Barkhad found out about the donation that Halo was willing to make on his behalf, he asked me to research pet shelters and rescues in Minneapolis,” says Massetti. “I did that and chatted with Lynn and some of her staff. They told me their story and I shared it with Barkhad. He and I both decided it seemed like the right place.”

That was back in March, and yesterday, the food finally arrived. It was a low-key affair without fanfare or red carpets (appropriate, as dogs aren’t always known for their decorum): just a freight truck with two pallets of Halo pet food, all for MARS.

MARS has a large food storage room on site, where they plan to store the food until it can be sent home with foster families. Each bag will be split into smaller plastic bags to make the food go farther and last longer, feeding as many dogs in their care as possible.

As for Barkhad Abdi, he won’t be coming home to Minnesota anytime soon: he starts filming a new movie this October with Colin Firth, Helen Mirren, and Aaron Paul. Our paws are firmly crossed that, next time he’s an Oscar nominee, this philanthropic hometown hero will go home a winner — but if not, we’re sure plenty of Minnesota rescues would be more than happy to make his acquaintance.

This coupon was in Barkhad Abdi's Oscar gift bag. (Photo: Halo, Purely for Pets)

The coupon that started it all: This was in Barkhad Abdi’s Oscar gift bag. (Photo: Halo, Purely for Pets)

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20 Responses to Oscar Nominee Donates Pet Food to MN Rescue

  1. Former MARS Volunteer says:

    As a former MARS volunteer, I’m a little disappointed that MARS was the only place considered as an option. Yes, they are the biggest rescue in MN but it’s not because they are a wonderful organization. More so because they act like this is a pet store and get dogs in and out as fast as poosible. Many volunteers have left there due to the shady business practices and lack of compassion for the animals. They are strictly in the dog rescue business for profit. They have anywhere from 4-8 people on payroll at one time, so not all the money raised and donated goes to the dog. This rescue constantly brings in dogs from out of state and most of the time they don’t have foster homes to place them when they get here. But because they want to make money by adopting out dogs, they will fill up their foster homes with 3-4 dogs…and many times more (the small dog fosters sometimes have up to 8…and yes, that is against the law). Tempermant tests are rarely done to determine if a dog would even be a good fit for adoption. They just put them in a foster home and hope for the best. The owner of this rescue actually goes through all the donations first to see what she can bring home to her dogs before the fosters get anything, so I can guarentee she has just stocked up on dog food for her personal pets and not the rescues dogs. Not to mention, she never says “Thank You” to her volunteers and the people running the show and getting the donations. At most, you will get a dirty look because she is very unfriendly…which was shocking because I thought most non-profit people were happy people who love doing what they do. I wish there was a way for people to see the true story behind this rescue before donating food, money and other items to a very ungrateful place. I can’t even make all of this up, this is how truly terrible this rescue is. I’ve seen all of this first hand, so it’s not hearsay or gossip. My only regret is that I didn’t document or take video of all of the craziness that goes on there in order to report them to someone

  2. Angie Ward says:

    MARS is by far one of my favorite Rescue families! They have taken several homeless dogs from me and I’m forever in debt to them!

  3. kathleen Sodergren says:

    I have been fostering for MARS for 1 1/2 years. Every person I have met there (both staff and volunteers) has been warm, generous and concerned for the welfare of the dogs. The prices they charge for adoption don’t even begin to cover veterinary costs, and they are much less…often $100 less, that those of other rescues in the area. The organization has provided one of my fosters with individual help from a marvelously talented animal behaviorist because he had “dog reactivity”. They have treated two of my fosters for heartworm, which is VERY expensive. I have had fosters from other states, and fosters from Minnesota. Many of the rescues are from high kill shelters, and many are from overcrowded facilities. I know of two volunteers who have kennel licenses so that they can take multiple dogs…mostly for a brief time until another foster can be found. I can think of many rescue organizations in our area who are wonderful, and believe it: MARS is a wonderful organization. I am extremely proud to volunteer for them. They provide top quality veterinary care for the rescues, and see that every incoming dog finds a foster home and then, a forever home.

  4. Deborah McAvoy says:

    MARS is an excellent organization. I have 2 dogs I adopted through them and volunteer also. They are consistently an excellent organization to work with. I have rarely worked with an organization more committed to their dogs.

  5. Julie says:

    I am a current MARS volunteer and have been so for several years now. I’ve worked as a foster, I’ve done home visits, and my own dog, a German Shepherd, has assisted in temperament testing potential dogs before they were pulled from a shelter and taken in to MARS. I’ve also assisted in the vet clinic.

    I know of very few homes that have more than one foster dog at a time, and of those that do, they do so willingly, love their fosters, and are equipped in every way to work with these dogs. I don’t know of any with more dogs than they can handle.

    In fact, even if I took in a dog and it wasn’t working out for some reason, the support has been fantastic, and done all for the dog’s benefit. Not sure where the above anonymous poster is coming from, but none of what she claims has been my experience with this organization.

  6. Patricia Peterson says:

    I am currently a MARS volunteer, and I disagree with EVERYTHING the former MARS volunteer has written. I am a volunteer foster and transporter, and I’ve not had any of the experiences claimed in that writing. In fact, the founder of MARS personally came to my home all those years ago to ensure my home was appropriate for fostering. I’m a MARS volunteer and couldn’t be prouder to be a MARS supporter. GO MARS!!!

  7. Dan says:

    I worked with MARS for almost 4 years and it has been a wonderful experience.

    We foster 70+ dogs during that time and regularly I regularly help with transports. I will not say all the dogs perfect, but MARS is trying to find the right home for the dogs it helps.

    I echo the above; I am a MARS volunteer and couldn’t be prouder to be a MARS supporter. GO MARS!!!

  8. nichole Belleavoine says:

    So so happy for MARS. I am a current foster for MARS and failed fostered a adorable rottweiler puppy last month. MARS is amazing, I have fostered for many organizations and have never seen another one that takes care of the expensive medical needs of the animals without blinking a eye. If a animal needs something medically it is getting it. All the animals who are helped by MARS are extremely lucky to have been cared for by such amazing people. I cant think of a better organization to donate to.
    Thank you thank you

  9. Another former Mars volunteer says:

    Everything the former Mars volunteer said is true! That’s why I do nothing for them & volunteer at smaller rescues

  10. Brenda G says:

    My husband and I both are current MARS volunteers and we have not had any of the experiences of the Former Volunteer. This is a GREAT rescue. We have fostered, done home visits and helped meeting transports. They are not in this for profit for themselves – it’s all about the animals and finding loving, caring homes for these pets. We are PROUD to be MARS volunteers.

  11. Jessi Brennan says:

    What an absolute blessing! It’s so great to see celebrities giving back, and extra cool that Mr. Barkhad Abdi chose to come back to his home state and show some love to the pups in our foster homes!

    MARS is the only rescue I’ve worked with, but I think he and his agent made a WONDERFUL choice. I have 2 pups and a kitty from MARS, and I have had nothing but support, respect, and FUN during my time as a MARS volunteer, adopter, and foster. No organization can make all humans happy all the time…but if they keep their eyes on the prize (1,000s of homeless dogs!), then they’re doing a pretty great job in my book.

    I have seen dogs with MARS that most people would consider “unadoptable”, and they work with them to give them a second chance. THIS is what rescue is all about. I even had one living in my own home. Now, she and her adoptive family are happy as can be, thanks to MARS. They provide medical care to these animals when no one else will. MARS is filled with angels who give up their time and money to make save as many dogs as possible.

    Thank you Lynn (and anyone else who spoke with the agent!) for representing MARS in such a way that convinced them they were donating to a great organization. I’d also like to thank the “owner” of MARS for personally taking my calls, answering my emails, and for giving up her personal time (just like the rest of us!) to help out when needed.

    I have huge amounts of respect for ANY rescue (or individual person!) who works to help homeless animals. This isn’t a contest…we have the same goal.

    P.S. Posting anonymously to bash a rescue that saves thousands of dogs a year isn’t really looking out for the best interest of the animals, is it?

  12. MARS Foster says:

    I understand some of the negative comments about the rescue. We currently foster for MARS, and had a bad adoption experience with them in the past. We love our foster dogs, but when they have moved on, we want to work with a rescue that focuses more on homeless pets in the state, instead of dragging them, at great time and money expense, from hundreds or thousands of miles away. I also find it hard to justify the amount of money spent fixing extreme medical and behavioral issues that they do when there are so many healthy dogs that could be rescued with that money. We’ve had plenty of good experiences with them, too, but I feel that MARS has gotten too big for proper oversight, and there’s a definite lack of communication and consistency overall.

  13. RescueMom says:

    I work for a smaller rescue and would like to say THANK YOU BARKHAD for thinking of us in Minnesota. It may not have gone to my rescue but I am glad he stays loyal to MN. No rescue is perfect and you have the right to your opinions. I still say don’t overshadow the thoughtfulness of the intention and the point of the article.

  14. Animal Lover says:

    I work with an animal advocacy group and it is too bad we have to bash groups that are trying to help animals…here or from other states. It is better to suggest ways to make an organization better than to leave and bash them. We will all make a greater impact if we work together and be grateful for support we get from donors and contributors.
    I want to say thank you to all the MARS volunteers and fosters. It is a tireless and often thankless job, but those of us who volunteer our time do it to make a difference it the life of the dogs and cats who need our help.

  15. Karen Inzerello says:

    Thank you so much for your wonderful donation to a Minnesota rescue.. this is so great…
    I really feel bad that people feel the need to be negative in response to such a wonderful act.
    MARS and all the volunteers feel great and thankful for the donation.
    I have been with MARS for over 4 years, and have volunteered in many areas.. and I am still here..
    I have volunteered for many non profit organizations ( over 40 years) that support animals and/or people… I have yet to see a perfect organization, whether non profit or profit… and probably never will.
    I am proud to be with a great group of people MIDWEST ANIMAL RESCUE… and I will sign my name unlike the people that complain… why is it that when people feel the need to bash someplace, they never sign their name??
    Again Thank you !!!!! your donation, will be used for the many wonderful dogs we support while waiting for their forever home… Thanks Karen Inzerello – Minnesota – MARS Volunteer

  16. Pingback: OSCAR NOMINEE DONATES PET FOOD TO MN RESCUE | Halo

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  19. Adrian Meli says:

    I hadn’t seen that the non-winning nominees were given this donation to make-what a wonderful idea to help rescues and raise awareness.

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