Pet food banks offer coronavirus aid amid pandemic

Rescue Alliance helps Louisiana families get pet supplies with COVID-19 drive-thru food bank

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The coronavirus has inspired several philanthropic initiatives throughout the country – many of which are aimed at hunger relief. But what about pets?

Sixty-seven percent of U.S. households – or about 85 million families – own a pet, according to a 2019-to-2020 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association. And with an annual basic expense of $259 for dog food and $228 for cat food, some families may have a difficult time feeding their pets if they have recently lost their job or have had hours or salaries reduced over the pandemic.

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For this reason, pet rescue organizations are stepping up to donate pet food for owners who are in need.

Rescue Alliance in Louisiana hosted a drive-thru Pet Food Pantry Bank on Wednesday at a Raising Cane's restaurant in Prairieville. With the event running from noon to 4 p.m., Rescue Alliance gave away 4,500 pounds of dog food and 3,000 pounds of cat food to pet owners, and more than 2,000 vehicles showed up to the event, according to the organization’s founder Jonathan Henriques.

“We started doing our Community Pet Food Bank Pickup Locations in Prairieville, Louisiana on April 11, 2020, and as long as the COVID-19 crisis is going on in Louisiana. After that we will convert back over to our regular application pet food bank operations,” Henriques wrote to FOX Business via email. “So far, we have used the same location but as we are seeking more suppliers and donations we are looking to open up more locations in other parishes also. Between the two events, we have provided pet food for about 2,500 families that have shown up needing assistance”

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The food bank’s drive-thru observed social distancing policies to protect Rescue Alliance staff and visiting recipients. Parked vehicles receive their donation by having staff members deliver the goods directly to their trunk and go on their merry way.

Visitors are not restricted to pet food and can receive other critical pet-related necessities such as kitty litter if the Rescue Alliance has enough in stock. The organization has been able to operate its drive-thru food bank thanks to the donations and grants it has received from Rescuebank, Alley Cat Allies and Even Tractor Supply Company.

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“We are running a Pet Food Bank because families shouldn't have to choose whether or not they can provide for their pet. More and more often, animals are included in family events and become important to all members of the family,” Henriques said. “This can be particularly significant in single-parent families, where a pet can be an important companion to children or even senior citizens and veterans.”

Local families who are in need of assistance outside of Rescue Alliance’s scheduled food bank pickup hours can fill out an emergency application on animalrecovery.org.

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Monetary donations to Rescue Alliance can be sent through Donor Box, PayPal and Network for Good or a purchase through the organization’s Amazon store.

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Similarly, pet rescue and welfare organizations outside of Louisiana are running food banks to provide short-term relief during the pandemic. Earlier this month, the ASPCA launched a food pantry in New York City as did the Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter in Ohio.