When you think of pet charities helping animals in need, you probably picture a puppy mill with a sad Sarah McLachlan song playing in the background. Have you ever stopped to think of all the pets that have loving homes, but their owners cannot afford to feed them? Don’t feel bad. Most people don’t. Of course, there are animals that are in more dire situations, but well loved animals go hungry every day in countries all around the world.
Theresa O’Connor, a resident of Denver, Colorado, survived a childhood of abuse. She wasn’t the only one in her family that suffered physical abuse – her pets were beaten too. Now, as an adult she shares her home with three dogs who are loved unconditionally. Unfortunately, in 2001 O’Connor’s husband became disabled, and she needed to stop working in order to care for him. As money became tight, the family could no longer afford dog food.
Since you cannot buy pet supplies with food stamps, O’Connor used her state assistance to purchase human food for her three beloved dogs Boss, Bella Amor and Jazzi. She used the food to feed her pets and went hungry herself. That was until she came across the Colorado Pet Pantry, an organization that provides food to families in need of assistance to care for their animals until they can get back on their feet.
The non-profit organization’s goal is to keep pets with their families and out of shelters. They partner with human food banks to distribute cat and dog food to local homeless and low-income families who need help feeding their companion animals. Last year the organization distributed more than 30,000 pounds of food to more than 1,500 families. They helped to feed 3,296 pets.
The Colorado Pet Pantry was established in 2013 with seed money from PawsCo; another Colorado based nonprofit aimed at helping animals. Eileen Lambert, founder of Colorado Pet Pantry, says that the organization is a labor of love. The pet food that is distributed by the business is good dog and cat food; it just isn’t sellable.
Pet stores donate food near its expiration date (but not expired), ripped kibble bags that can no longer be sold, and products from brands that they will no longer be stocking. Pet food manufacturers also make large donations when they are making a packaging change and wish to get rid of food that has already been sealed in the old packaging. This summer a whopping donation worth an estimated $130,000 was donated by Redbarn Pet Products simply because they were changing their logo.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of really good work…We’re just giving this food a place to go. I always say, “You need food, we have food’ – it’s as simple as that.”
The work of this pet food pantry keeps pets out of shelters, and more importantly, at home with the families who love them. Not only does this save the lives of countless animals, it also saves thousands of dollars that would be spent by shelters who would have to feed and care for the surrendered pets.
The program isn’t meant for people who want to adopt a pet but can’t afford one. It is made to help families that are in a temporary jam – like if someone loses their job or the family runs into unexpected medical bills. The Colorado Pet Pantry discourages dependence on the program by only allowing clients to visit once every two months, and they won’t provide food for pets acquired after someone becomes a client. If you can’t feed one pet, you certainly shouldn’t be getting any more.
For some pet owners, their pets are the only family that they have. Many dog and cat parents are closer to their animals than to any other human being. For many of us, turning our pets over to a shelter, no matter how bad our situation, just is not an option. I for one can completely understand O’Connor and any other pet parent who would feed their pets before feeding themselves. The Colorado Pet Pantry is an amazing organization that is not just helping to keep pets safe and healthy; they are helping to keep families together.