Julie Morris, Vice President, ASPCA National Shelter Outreach
Like Food in the Bank
It’s a basic human impulse to feed those who are hungry. While animal welfare organizations offer services to stray, abused or abandoned animals, many people tend to overlook the needs of owned animals whose owners struggle to care for them properly. In 1997, the Arizona Humane Society (AHS), located in Phoenix, had an inspiration about serving that population. Today, the society’s Pet Food Bank, in partnership with several local hunger-relief agencies and St. Mary’s Food Bank, offers 1,000 pounds of pet food and supplies every week to pet owners in need.
The AHS gets the food from a variety of sources, including warehouses, grocery stores, pet stores, community organizations, individuals and annual food drives. The food is stored in a warehouse, and participating community groups pick up the food weekly and distribute it the same way they distribute food for families.
Burning Bush Ministries is one of several local hunger-relief agencies that distribute food from the Pet Food Bank. With more than 10 years’ experience in feeding the less fortunate human population of South Phoenix, Pastor Juan Bautista is happy to extend the program to animals. “I used to think it was such a blessing that we were able to feed the homeless, the down-and-out, the unemployed and people who just need a helping hand to get back on their feet,” Bautista says. “Now we’re able to feed God’s little creatures, as well.”
Each week, more than 1,500 homeless people arrive at Burning Bush Ministries for meals. Many have a dog or cat with whom they’ve forged a special bond. Bautista believes the bond is healthy. “A lot of times when people are out on the street, they need a companion,” he says. “Many of these people have no family around. They should be able to keep a companion who they can love and will love them back and be a guardian.”
The AHS is one of the largest humane societies in the United States, handling more than 45,000 animals annually. It is also an innovative and ambitious organization. Besides the food bank, its Therapeutic Services Division offers animal-assisted therapy; bereavement counseling services; Project SafeHouse, which helps animal victims of domestic violence by providing temporary foster care while their owners find a safe environment; and Saddle Up, which provides equestrian therapy for at-risk youth.
The ASPCA National Shelter Outreach department recently awarded the first grant (of a three-year commitment) to help support AHS’s Project ReachOut, a mobile spay/ neuter clinic and animal wellness center that serves the animals of the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona and New Mexico.
AHS has also just embarked on a capital campaign to build a new Campus for Compassion. The site will include an adoption center, a Spay/Neuter Assistance Program clinic, an All Creatures Learning/Youth Education Center and wildlife rehabilitation and farmyard animal areas. AHS hopes to break ground in 2000.
A pet food bank is a great way for a humane organization to expand its services to a new segment of the animal population, and the AHS has prepared a handout on things to consider when starting a pet food bank. For a copy of the handout or for additional information, contact Julie Bank, Director of Education and Therapeutic Services at the Arizona Humane Society, 9226 North 13th Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85021, or call (602) 997-7587 ext. 134.
Julie Morris is vice president of ASPCA National Shelter Outreach.
ASPCA Animal Watch – Winter 1999
© 1999 ASPCA
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