By Siri Espy, Animal Friends' Communications Team
Poverty and hunger have hit many residents of our region hard. And in tough economic times, pets become victims as well. When income plummets, desperate people find themselves unable to feed their beloved pets, causing heartache for the owners and swelling the population of homeless animals.
In April 2007, Animal Friends took action to address this tragic situation by creating the Chow Wagon program. In partnership with local food pantries, this initiative has served the local community by making pet food available to clients who rely on these resources to feed their families. The program came out of a realization that the mission of these organizations intertwined with that of Animal Friends. Keeping the family together–both two-legged and four-legged members–is important at any time, but takes on even more urgency when the family is faced with wrenching challenges.
Beginning with a delivery of 70 pounds of food to Loaves & Fishes in Allison Park, the program has expanded to more than 20 other sites. Through the program, fewer families are forced to sacrifice their own food budgets to feed their pets or face surrendering their animals to an uncertain future.
To date, nearly 90,000 pounds of food have been donated, along with toys and treats when available. Recognizing the importance of preventing the birth of unwanted animals, information and applications for Animal Friends’ low-cost spay and neuter program are also provided to the pantries.
Most of the food provided to the organizations is donated by schools, scout troops, and other community groups. These Good Samaritans are helping Animal Friends serve the region and its vulnerable pets through bolstering these important community partnerships that keep animals where they belong–with the people who love them.
Mary Kozik, who coordinates the West Deer Food Pantry, reports that her clients are delighted to receive the food and treats for their animals. Sue Otto, Director of the Center for Hope, further explains the value of the program: “It is heartbreaking to even think someone may have to make the decision to give up a pet for lack for food. We are very thankful for this donation from Animal Friends’ Chow Wagon.”
Fran McFadden, Our Lady of the Angels Food Pantry Director, explains that 70% of the households served by her organization have pets, and are grateful for the assistance provided by Chow Wagon. She explains, “The pet food program alleviates a substantial cost for our clients and allows greater flexibility in their tight money management, as well as assisting them with the great joy of pet ownership.”
Animal Friends invites you to jump on the “Wagon” by dropping off donations of pet food, treats and toys at the Caryl Gates Gluck Resource Center. Many of our neighbors are counting on you to keep their families intact in hard times, with tail-wags of appreciation as a priceless reward for your kindness.
Click here to visit www.ThinkingOutsideTheCage.org. View adoptable animals and learn more about our work!
Watch a video about Animal Friends' Chow Wagon here: