New pet pantry to help locals dog and cat owners

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COLUMBIA - There are many pantries to provide people in need with food, and now one local pantry has added a pet section to help provide food for pets. 

Inside the Central Pantry in Columbia, pet owners can find a section of dog and cat food. The idea came from Melody Whitworth, director at Unchained Melodies Dog Rescue. After talking with people in the community, Whitworth thought something should be done to help pet owners.

"The idea came from outreach that they do as a rescue group," Whitworth said. "We actually do out reach to communities with dogs in need and we realized that a lot of people we approached are actually having a hard time feeding their pets."

She said it would be hard to get an entire space devoted to just a pet pantry, so combining the project with the Central Pantry makes it easy for residents to get everything they need in one place. 

The pet pantry is made up of community members, rescue groups, and businesses providing food to the families who are in need of pet food.

Whitworth said she realized buying pet food can be expensive if a family has a lot of pets, or multiple family members to feed. 

Jessica Schlosser, owner of Lizzi and Rocco's, broke down the price of pet food and said the amount can add up quickly.

"To feed an average-sized dog, it can start around 50 cents a day, which for some people isn't a lot but, for some people, that can add up, especially if they have multiple pets," Schlosser said. "So sometimes for some families, something as little as $20 dollars a month can be a really big problem when it comes to feeding their pets on the daily basis."

Adding in various dietary issues can further increase the price. 

"It can be, especially if they have dietary needs or dietary restrictions, so there's many places you can get different types of pet food. All stores carry pet food but it can be very expensive, at least 20, 30, 40 and on up for a bag," Whitworth said. 

Both Whitmore and Schlosser said they would like the project to keep dogs off the streets and out of shelters. 

"There is a lot of people that are struggling and sometimes you don't realize it and people actually will relinquish pets to the shelter or re-home their pets because they are struggling to care for them," Whitworth said. "If we can provide at least food, that's a start for them to be able to keep their pet and not drop them off at a shelter or relinquish them."

Schlosser said, "One of the reasons we work very closely with local rescue groups, and we know one of the reasons why people are sometimes faced with that unfortunate choice to give up a pet, is because they can't afford to feed it. So we figure if we can help them out in that sense, it also keeps animals out of our shelter system."

Whitworth said, over the past five or six months, the project has been very successful but there is a growing need for funding and supplies.

People looking to donate food can drop it off at any of the Lizzi and Rocco's locations, Treats Unleashed or the Spay Neuter Project. All dog and cat food is accepted. 

"We are just really looking for donations. The community can donate any type of cat or dog food and they can drop it off at any of those locations that I mentioned but it goes very quickly. The food pantry is actually amazed at how much need for pet food there is and it literally flies off the shelf when we drop it off," Whitworth said. 

Schlosser said consistently hears from pet owners they are thankful for the pantry.

Editors note: The Central Pantry does not allocate financial, staff or other resources to the purchase of pet food. This is not a Central Pantry program.