Free pet food pantries are popping in cities and towns across the nation by people concerned about the recession’s effect on pets. We’ve all seen it or read the stories about people having to give up their animals due to financial trouble. Many people don’t know that most states and many cities have pet food banks available to help those going through a rough patch.  These food banks are designed to help keep pets in homes and out of the animal shelter.

Pet food banks are often run by a group of animal loving volunteers or a local animal shelters or rescue groups.  Most of the food is donated from retailers who have to get rid of their damaged bags of food or dented cans.  Some banks have pet-loving sponsors who make it all possible or they solicit donations in order to fill up their pantry.  There are compassionate veterinarians who also often donate extra food to their local bank to help support this cause.

Most food banks require the recipient of donated food to do their part, too.  It is common for pet food banks to make sure that pets are for companionship and not for breeding or illegal activities, see proof of spay/neuter for each pet receiving food (many of the pet food banks will help you make that happen!), and expect proof of income qualifications along with photo identification.  A one month supply of food for each pet is a standard amount, and recipients are asked to maintain a healthy environment for all their pets, not to tether or chain them, and to give their animals fresh water daily.  Some pet food banks also offer other supplies, and most have a list of low-cost resources and other support services to share. Animal-loving volunteers will likely know about organizations that provide financial assistance or medical services to pet owners in need.

Most pet owners discover the whereabouts of local pet food banks by contacting their local animal shelter, traditional food banks or other social service organizations.  There are a few websites such as Save Our Pets Food Bank, Pikes Peak Pantry , and Petco’s Food Bank Program  that list as pet food pantries from all over the country.

For rescue groups and animal shelters who need a hand feeding the pets in their care, our animal loving sponsors at Purina also supports animal welfare organizations through their pet food donation programs, Pets for People™ (www.petsforpeople.com) and Pro Plan® Rally to Rescue™ (www.rallytorescue.org).   Purina donates thousands of pounds of pet food throughout the year and all over the United States as it becomes available by area.

And if this article doesn’t apply to you directly, maybe you or someone you know can volunteer at a local pet food bank!  Getting involved at your local pet food bank is a terrific way to help animals.  Usual volunteer duties range from calling about donations, distributing food pick-ups, sorting pet food types, writing thank you notes, returning calls and emails, and sorting through applications requesting food. Want to do something less administrative?  Organize a pet-food drive at your local school or house of worship and involve your community!  Gathering pet food donations and helping refill those pantries just might make you volunteer of the month.  Lastly, donating money or food yourself is a great way to give back.  If you do not have a local pet food bank in your area and you want to help homeless pets, perhaps you can start one of your own! (Visit www.animalsheltertips.com/pet_food_bank.html for how to start a pet food bank.) This would be an amazing way to improve the lives of both animals and people in your area.

If you or someone you know needs a hand feeding their animals, please use support services and keep your pets in your home.  Spread the word in your community – a local animal shelter should be the last option for your pet (or better yet, not an option at all).  We at Adopt-a-Pet.com want to help both people and animals.  We want to help you stay together, stay safe and stay loved.  We all deserve that.