In difficult times, dog lovers all over the country have separately rallied to make sure that no canine 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 German shepherd-Labrador mix, Brandi, Zach found himself face-to-face with a problem he never knew existed: homeless dogs 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 provides food to the disabled and elderly as well.
We All Love Our Pets (WALOP)
Meals on Wheels has a reputation for feeding homebound seniors, but since 2006, they’ve also offered the same service to their clients’ pets. WALOP was founded in recognition of the fact that companion animals are vital to the well-being of the elderly. It is a national initiative to focus attention on that vital relationship.
Estelle Bergman of Forest Hills, N.Y., has been relying on Meals on Wheels since she broke her ankle three years ago. “I am in no shape to carry home a 10-pound bag of food from the grocery store, and on a fixed income, it’s not easy to afford either. WALOP has taken care of my dog, Popcorn, as Meals on Wheels has taken care of me,” she says.
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,” she remembers.
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 boiling chickens and ladling the broth over rice she had for her dogs, just to provide them more protein. 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 such as a social security reward letter or a disability check stub.