By Alexia Campbell
From: Sun Sentinel
WEST PALM BEACH — Yvonne Barber takes a bus to Fido’s Food Bank at least once a month to make sure her five cats don’t starve when her money starts to run out.
The 63-year-old, who lives alone on Social Security, said she would have to give away her feline companions without the food bank’s help. The bag of cat food she buys each month doesn’t last until her next paycheck, she said.
“Some months, you have to decide between deodorant or toilet paper,” Barber said after a recent trip to Fido’s Food Bank at the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League.
Pet food banks are playing a more important role across South Florida these days as animal lovers struggle to pay bills during rough economic times. The more-established animal food banks work hard to meet the growing demand.
In recent months, the number of pet owners seeking free food has been growing at Fido’s Food Bank, which opened 10 years ago, the rescue league said. On average, it had been supplying food to 100 Palm Beach County families. In July, it served 144.
The goal is to slow the tide of people surrendering their pets to animal shelters because they can’t afford to care for them, said Joy Humphries, director of development and marketing for the Rescue League.
The teary goodbyes between owners and animals have become an all-too-familiar scene at animal shelters across South Florida, she said.
“We want to keep as many people and pets together as we can,” said Humphries. Businesses and local community groups donate most of the food, she said. Cat food always is in short supply.
In Broward County, hundreds of unemployed pet owners stop by The Pet Project in Oakland Park to pick up several months worth of food for their dogs and cats.
Stories of people abandoning their pets during the recession led the nonprofit group to expand its pet food bank two years ago to serve unemployed animal owners, said Sue Martino, executive director. Before, The Pet Project focused on helping disabled and elderly pet owners.
“Stories started coming out of people leaving their animals in the Everglades or in the street,” Martino said. “I spoke with the board [members] right away.”
Victims of the recession now are The Pet Project’s main clients, Martino said. With proof of unemployment, they can get a supply of dog or cat food to last several months. In August, the organization gave away more than 7,000 pounds of food for about 600 dogs and cats in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
The Pet Project buys the pet food with money from its thrift store in Oakland Park. But it’s expensive, Martino said. All those cans and bags of pet food cost the organization about $4,000 a month.
Read more: Sun Sentinel