Pro­vi­sions avail­able through­out the year

Gulf & Main - - Contents - BY ANN MARIE O’PHEL AN

Of course, as the cost of liv­ing rises, peo­ple who own pets have to con­tend with ad­di­tional ex­penses. Ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety for the Preven­tion of Cru­elty to An­i­mals (ASPCA), an­nual food costs can av­er­age $200 to $400 per dog, per house­hold. Cat food can cost $200 a year per cat, per house­hold.

Other costs—such as vet­eri­nary ex­penses, li­cense and sup­plies—in­crease the av­er­age yearly cost of own­ing a cat or dog to a range of $1,100 to more than $2,000. Fur­ther­more, re­search con­ducted by the Na­tional Coun­cil on Pet Pop­u­la­tion Study and Pol­icy shows that the cost of pet own­er­ship is one of the top 10 rea­sons peo­ple re­lin­quish their an­i­mal com­pan­ions.

For­tu­nately, food pantries for pets are avail­able in South­west Florida. The Com­mu­nity Pet Pantry Pro­gram, for ex­am­ple, was es­tab­lished by Lee County Do­mes­tic An­i­mal Ser­vices. It is “de­signed to tem­po­rar­ily as­sist pet own­ers in fi­nan­cial cri­sis to help keep them in lov­ing homes rather than sur­ren­dered to shel­ters,” ex­plains Tim Engstrom, pub­lic info spe­cial­ist for Lee County gov­ern­ment. The pro­gram pro­vides com­pli­men­tary pet food and sup­plies for Lee County res­i­dents.

“I ac­tu­ally got hit hard last year with ex­tra ex­penses, on top of los­ing my job, and the pro­gram helped me out for a while with dog food,” says Marie Adler of Fort My­ers. She owns a 5-year-old Labrador mix named Rus­sell. “I am grate­ful that they were able to help me dur­ing that time of need, and I plan to do­nate food this year to pay it for­ward,” adds Adler.

The pro­gram as­sists more than 1,400 pets a year—and all do­na­tions are from the com­mu­nity. There are a num­ber of drop-off lo­ca­tions through­out Lee County, and staff mem­bers rec­om­mend brands from Costco/Sam’s Club or Publix, or Pu­rina Dog Chow or Di­a­mond Main­te­nance.

Gulf Coast Hu­mane So­ci­ety (GCHS) is some­times over­stocked with pet food do­na­tions. In those cases, it do­nates the food to a va­ri­ety of com­mu­nity as­sis­tance or­ga­ni­za­tions. GCHS com­mu­nity re­la­tions co­or­di­na­tor Brian Wier­ima says, “We guar­an­tee to all of our donors, the food they are do­nat­ing will be reach­ing the peo­ple and pets who need it. We do use lots of do­na­tions, but some­times we have the op­por­tu­nity to share with oth­ers, be­cause it is a co­op­er­a­tive ef­fort to make sure peo­ple’s pets are not go­ing hun­gry.”

Ac­cord­ing to the ASPCA, more than a mil­lion U.S. house­holds are forced to give up their pets each year. It is hoped pet food pantries, and other ser­vices de­signed to as­sist pets and their own­ers, will en­able more and more pets to stay where they be­long—right at home. Ann Marie O’Phelan is a South­west Florida res­i­dent and a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to TOTI Me­dia.

Clock­wise from be­low left: Ex­cess dog and cat food do­nated to Gulf Coast Hu­mane So­ci­ety is dis­trib­uted to lo­cal agen­cies and th en to needy house­holds; the Com­mu­nity Pet Pantry Pro­gram is cur­rently low on sup­plies; pet food was dis­trib­uted by GC HS af­ter Hur­ri­cane Irma.

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