TACOMA, Wash. - Food banks around the state have been busier than ever this year, and one of the needs that is often overlooked at donation time is food for pets. Not all food banks have the space to collect pet supplies, but humane societies, animal rescue organizations and some veterinary hospitals accept donations and pass the food along to low-income pet owners at no charge.
In Pierce County, a Senior Pet Food Pantry delivers to about 300 pets of owners who are home-bound. Manager Al Wittich says business is brisk.
"We have 21 drivers basically, right now on staff, that are volunteers. They do this delivery on their own time - using their own gas, their own vehicle, without any kind of reimbursement - and distribute the food to the seniors."
The Senior Pet Food Pantry helps people who reside in Pierce County, are over age 55 and live on very low incomes. Wittich says the pantry depends entirely on donated food, which the volunteers repackage into single-meal portions for pets and deliver weekly. He says of their clients' pets, cats outnumber dogs about three-to-one.
The pet adoption agency in Spokane - known as "SpokAnimal" - allows people in need to stop in once a month for donated food. Gail Mackie, the shelter's executive director, says some felt uncomfortable about accepting free food, so they've found a creative alternative.
"We incorporated a program that allows them to come in and volunteer. They do some work walking the dogs or cleaning kennels or whatever, in exchange for the food they get. It leaves people with their pride, and it has worked very well for us."
More than 30 people are now signed up for the volunteer program, Mackie says. "SpokAnimal" also supplies donated food for the pets of home-bound Meals on Wheels clients and HIV/AIDS patients. Right now, they need food for adult dogs and cats.
In winter, some animal shelters also distribute food for livestock, including the Whatcom Humane Society, Bellingham.