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In difficult times, cat lovers all over the country have separately rallied to make sure that no cat is left unfed. Grassroots pet food banks have sprung up in most regions, with local humane societies offering contact information for needy or infirm pet owners in their communities. Below, organizers and satisfied customers tell their stories and share tips on how to receive food bank services.
The Central Florida Animal Pantry
When Erica Wilson and her 9-year-old son, Zach, went to a Florida shelter to find a companion for their dog, Brandi, Zach found himself face-to-face with a problem he never knew existed: homeless animals abandoned because their owners couldn’t afford to feed them.
“We knew we needed to do something,” says Wilson. What began as a Cub Scout food drive grew into a full-on food pantry in the spring of 2009, when a distribution location in Longwood, Fla., was donated for their use. They distribute an average of 600 pounds of food a week, much of it donated by major manufacturers.
“We meet people from all walks of life here, from those who’ve struggled all their lives to those who aren’t used to asking for help, but now have no other choice,” says Wilson. The organization also provides food to the disabled and elderly as well.
Tree House Humane Society
When Marcus Newell of Chicago, Ill., lost his job four years ago, he wasn’t sure how he was going to continue to support himself and his family -- let alone his two cats, Diamond and Whiskers. He mentioned his concerns to a worker at public assistance, who told him about Tree House Humane Society, a no-kill cat shelter in Chicago. Tree House also runs a pet food pantry to make food available to owners who might otherwise no longer be able to adequately provide for their companion animals.
Newell has been delighted with the quality and quantity of the food Tree House has provided, and also with the time he’s gotten to spend with other cats when he picks up his supplies.
Save Our Pets Food Bank
In 2008, former CEO Ann King of Atlanta, Ga., had a 30,000-square-foot building and a dream. She wanted to fill her warehouse with pet food and hand it out to people who could no longer afford to feed their animals. King approached a local food pantry -- specializing in feeding people -- and asked if they could help her to distribute her wares. “They told me they didn’t think there was a need, which I knew was crazy,” says King.
King got going without them, and in the last three years her food bank has helped over 700 families and 200 rescue organizations and shelters in Georgia through donations from independent supporters and pet food manufacturers alike.
“I hear stories about the lengths people have gone to try to keep their pets with them,” says King. “One woman was living in her car with her two cats. We helped her feed them, and eventually to find housing that accepted pets. Meeting our clients makes me feel grateful.”
- Locate a pet food pantry near you by calling your local humane society for contact information.
- Make sure your pet is spayed or neutered before applying, as many banks make this a requirement for membership. They will connect you to low-cost spay and neuter options if your pet has never been fixed.
- Provide proof of income (or lack thereof). While the income caps at different pantries vary, most require some type of proof of financial hardship, be that a copy of your latest income tax return, a copy of your most recent pay stub, or papers like a social security reward letter or a disability check stub.
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