A place at the table

A place at the table

Advocates 4 Animals food pantry

By Paula Johnson

Photo: Advocates 4 Animals co-founder Amy Beatty holds Pearl the cat

Everyone knows pets contribute to the psychological and physical health of their owners. In the case of seniors, older pet owners require less medical attention and are one-quarter less likely to develop clinical depression. CDC and NIH studies show pets in the home can actually reduce allergies in children, decrease blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides in adults and reduce their owner’s overall stress levels. That is, except when feeding a furry family member adds to that stress. Enter the Advocates 4 Animals Pet Food Pantry Program.

Advocates 4 Animals, founded in 2003, is an all-volunteer 501C3 non-profit organization – all donations are 100 percent tax deductible and go directly to the animals. A4A has rescued, rehabilitated and found loving homes for more than 11,000 animals in states as far away as Texas since beginning its adoption program. Additionally, their Spay It Forward and Feral Cat Programs have risen out of the need to help fight rampant feline overpopulation.

“Advocates 4 Animals is NOT a shelter – it’s a rescue,” A4A co-founder Amy Beatty said. And that’s an important distinction. The organization grew out of the need to reform the current pound and shelter system – one in which 55 percent of companion animals surrendered will be killed regardless of breed, temperament or age.

Cats are particularly vulnerable and are euthanized in the highest numbers. Princess, the cat who served as inspiration for the Advocates 4 Animals logo, was one such cat. An eleventh-hour rescue from certain death allowed her to be saved and rehabilitated. From a starving four pounds and only one eye due to an untreated injury, Princess went on to live another healthy and happy 10 years.

Feeding our furry friends

So, how did the idea for a pet food pantry come about? “Back in 2010, we began to notice a huge increase in calls to A4A from people needing to give up their animals to a shelter because they were in dire economic straights,” Beatty said. “It was tragic – truly an act of desperation. These people loved their pets, but when faced with feeding their families they felt they had no other choice.”

Thus, the Pet Food Pantry program was born. Started with grants from Petco and Petsmart, the pantry serves between 100 and 200 families per month. While currently limited to Greene County residents, Beatty hopes in the future to expand the program to Montgomery and Clark Counties. In order to be eligible, a family must qualify using the government’s Federal Poverty Level standards. So, a household of four cannot exceed $44,700 annually, while the amount for an individual is $21,780. Proof of residency and current tax records are required. 

“We also can assist if it’s a case of temporary hardship, like the loss of a job or a medical emergency,” Beatty said. Families who are approved can receive a two-week supply of food for dogs or cats up to twice in one year. 

Additional requirements are pets must be spayed or neutered and be permanently indoors, with the exception of free-roaming cats. Dogs chained outside will not be considered.

Food can be picked up or delivered to residents if needed by a core of around 20 “go-to” pantry volunteers. 

The pantry’s current location is a volunteer’s garage. 

“It’s definitely on our wish list to find a permanent place,” Beatty said. “We only need about 500 square feet of space, so if there is a company or business out there willing to donate, we would be thrilled to hear from them!”

Along with the ongoing support of the Petco and Petsmart foundations, the pantry also welcomes donations of food from the public. During the months of May through September, Little Miami Canoe Rental – located at 219 Mill St. in Morrow – serves as a drop off location, or a pantry volunteer can coordinate a donation pick up.

Sustaining the bond

There is a growing need for the Pet Food Pantry’s services. Since its inception, there has been a steady increase in calls for assistance. Could this be an indication of a worsening economy? Not necessarily. As Beatty pointed out, while the need is greater now, it’s because more people are finding out about it. And she’s pleased that the word is spreading. Keeping pets out of shelters and with and the people who love them is vital. Animals are a source of joy and comfort, and the benefit to their owners is even more crucial in stressful times.

For more information or to apply for assistance, please visit advocates4animals.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Paula Johnson at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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