The best way to reduce the number of animals euthanized in shelters each year is to keep them from entering shelters in the first place. How do we do that? The traditional answers usually involve TNR programs as well as spaying and neutering. Low cost spay/neuter programs seem to be gaining ground with shelters around the country. These are all great steps to help unwanted animals from being born and allowing individuals to keep a little extra money in their pockets while doing the best thing for their pets. Low cost clinics are a great way to help people with tight budgets provide the best for their cats and dogs. Sometimes though, something more is needed.
During the recent recession the numbers of cats and dogs admitted to Chicago Animal Care and Control, as well as other shelters in the area, rose drastically. I remember watching a story on the news about people who could no longer afford to care for their pets because they had lost their job, had taken a cut in pay, or were facing other financial difficulties. It is so sad that sometimes people face hardships they have no control over, such as a lost job, and as a result can no longer afford to buy even the most basic food for their pets.
If it comes down to paying your rent and feeding your family, versus feeding your pets, most people understandably decide to put their money towards feeding their family and keeping a roof over their heads. Regardless of how much you love your animal, if you don’t have money to pay for the basics Fortunately there are are growing number of resources available for individuals in need of some assistance when it comes to feeding their pets. Imagine how difficult it must be for those families who suddenly face financial difficulties and then have to make the decision to get rid of their beloved cat or dog. Those are the times when they need their pets the most!
Pet food pantries run just like human food pantries, only with cat and dog food! I first encountered the concept when I interned at Tree House Humane Society back in 2006. Once a week qualifying individuals would stop by and get enough food to feed their animals for two weeks. The food was mostly kibble, and not always the best quality, but it was food. If that bag of kibble keeps a cat or two out of a shelter then it’s certainly the best food for the cat. Individuals had to prove they were low income, either with a pay stub or proof of state aid. They also had to prove their pet was spayed or neutered. The pet food pantry also provided food for individuals caring for feral colonies, as feeding dozens of cats is quite expensive and a prohibitive expense for many people. I saw so many people come in for pet food, all of them so grateful for this service that helped them keep their beloved cat or dog.
I love helping out the local pet food pantries. It is so easy and even with my tight budget usually I can afford an extra bag of food, a few cans of wet food or a bag of litter. The pet store I shop at has a donation box up for a local pantry, and I am thrilled to see it usually has quite a few items in it. A few months back I collected some of the items we were unable to sell at work and I took them to the pet food pantry at Tree House Humane Society. Below is a picture of everything I collected. Many people don’t consider donating to pet food pantries, their first thought is to donate food to shelters and rescue groups.Of course these organizations absolutely need the supplies. It costs a lot of money to feed all those hungry cats and dogs! Wouldn’t it be great though if that bag of food your cat won’t eat to go to help keep a hungry kitty in her home?
So if you have a few extra bags or cans of food sitting around that your cat refused to eat and you just never got around to returning it to the store, why not consider donating it to your local pet food pantry. Don’t have a local pet food pantry? Talk to your local shelter or rescue group about starting one! I was thrilled to learn that many of the local food pantries around Chicago also offer pet foods! I was researching pet food pantries and I came across the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association’s website, where they have a comprehensive list of pet food pantries in Illinois. Check it out if you are looking to donate food or need assistance to feed your own animals.