As many families worry about where their next meal will come from during the coronavirus pandemic, the Humane Society of Carroll County (HSCC) hopes to ease that worry for pet owners and their four-legged friends.
The animal protection organization and shelter located in Westminster has been hosting drive-through pet pantries weekly since April to help families affected by the pandemic. Free supplies such as dog and cat food, cat litter, collars, dog beds, and more are available to pet owners who stop by, on a first-come, first-served basis. The pantries are currently being hosted at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Green Acres Pet Center, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, and Thunderhead Bowl.
“We recognize that during the pandemic many families are experiencing hardship. We want to make sure that families with pets do not have to worry where their fur babies’ next meal will come from,” said Michelle Fidler, director of animal care at the shelter.
According to Fidler, the pet pantries have helped more than 800 families in Carroll County and the surrounding areas since March.
The pantry’s drive-through format requires that pet owners arrive in their vehicles, where they remain inside while Humane Society volunteers load the pet supplies into the trunk or hatchback. According to Fidler, the pantry mainly consists of dog and cat supplies with some donations of bird, rabbit, and ferret supplies as well.
Fidler said the shelter has increased its weekly presence to 2-3 times a week and is also operating a self-serve sharing table located at the shelter with free pet supplies such as cat litter, dog food, leashes, cat toys, beds, blankets, etc.
The shelter has been receiving supplies through GreaterGood.org, a nonprofit that has donated over $15 million to animal shelters and pet owners in support of coronavirus relief, including cash grants and in-kind pet supplies.
GreaterGood.org has donated more than 93,000 pounds of pet food and supplies to HSCC and is hoping to donate another shipment in the coming weeks, according to Melissa Vecera, director of in-kind operations at GreaterGood.org. A majority of the pet supplies and food have been donated to GreaterGood.org by brand name manufacturers such as Chewy and PetSmart.
Vercera says the organization is committed to helping prevent families from needing to surrender their pets to shelters for economic reasons.
“We’ve been hearing reports from pet pantries that the need has been increasing between 200% and 400% as a result of COVID, and of course a lot of that is attributed to job loss. If people are struggling to feed their families obviously they can’t afford to feed their pets,” said Vecera. “If people can afford to keep their pets by covering an expense like food, less animals will be then surrendered into animal shelters.”
Fidler said the GreaterGood.org donations have also been shared with multiple other welfare organizations in the surrounding areas such as Howard County Animal Control, Maryland SPCA, Hereford Food Bank, Montgomery County Community Cat Coalition, and others.
Currently, the Humane Society of Carroll County is welcoming donations of pet food of all brands and varieties, as well as cat litter.
For now, the next drive-through pet pantry is scheduled for July 22 at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Eldersburg from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Two more are scheduled for July 25 at Thunderhead Bowl in Taneytown from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and July 28 at Green Acres Pet Center in Mount Airy from 10 a.m. to noon.
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Fidler hopes they can continue the pet pantries into August as well given that the organization has enough supplies. According to Vecera, another shipment of supplies from GreaterGood.org will be delivered toward the end of August and could possibly prompt more pet pantries during that time.