Published Thursday, December 27, 2012
By SARAH FAY CAMPBELL
When a family falls on hard times, it doesn’t only affect the human members of the family. Pets can suffer, too. And in too many cases, people have to give up their pets because they can’t afford to feed them.
That’s why the Newnan-Coweta Humane Society is starting a food pantry for pets.
The humane society has been providing pet food to help needy families in the past, but it has been on an ad hoc basis, said LouAnn Jones, NCHS president. “When people need food, we’ve been trying to get it out to help them.”
Jones is also director of the humane society’s HELP Spay Neuter Clinic. The clinic started a free spay/neuter program for low-income families in May 2011.
There is also a program for free spay/neuters in certain areas of the county, regardless of income. It is funded by a $50,000 grant from PetSmart. The service area includes the entire area between Highway 34 West and Highway 16 West, as well as an area south of Highway 34 East including East Newnan, Millard Farmer, and Ishman Ballard roads to Highway 16 and Poplar Road, bordered by Interstate 85. The clinic also has other free and low-cost spay/neuter programs, including programs for cats and pit bulls.
“So many of the people that we are coming into contact with” through the programs “weren’t able to take care of their pets. They had more than they could feed or take care of,” Jones said. “They were kind people who had animals who weren’t fixed. And then they had puppies and kittens and it snowballed,” she said. In addition to providing spay and neuter surgeries “we’ve been able to help a lot of people in getting litters into the adoption program,” she said.
The need for help with feeding animals “just became such a consistent need with people we are serving through that program that we really knew we needed to do something more structured and consistent,” Jones said.
There will be a food distribution once a month on the first Saturday of the month.
It begins on Jan. 5.
If people are “in a dire need,” and can’t wait until the official distribution, “they can schedule a time for us to meet them at the storage shed,” said Holly Lewis, food pantry director.
The humane society has a good stock of food to get started with, but ongoing donations will be needed.
Several Pet Lovers Clubs at local schools started pet food drives to stock the pantry.
The pantry will take donations of any kind of pet food, as well as cat litter, adjustable nylon collars and leashes, and stainless steel pet food bowls. They can accept opened or re-bagged food, but it should be in good condition.
Donations can be delivered at the clinic, located at 12 The Crescent in Avery Park; at All-Star Mini Storage, 8 Newnan South Industrial; or at the adoption events which are held at the Newnan PetSmart store on Sundays from 12:30 to 3:30.
The donations can be dropped off at the storage unit at any time, Jones said. “All Star has graciously donated an indoor, climate-controlled food storage place for us. They will take supplies or donations any time.”
Jones said they’d also be happy if a local business were to set up a donation location.
The humane society will provide a donation bin and someone to pick up the items.
To receive food, pet owners will need to fill out an application. NCHS staff and volunteers can provide assistance.
All pets to be helped must be spayed or neutered, and current on their rabies shots. If they are not, the humane society can provide those services for free.
Additionally, assistance is only available for up to three pets per household.
If people have more pets than that, “we kind of work with people to try to get the number of animals they have to maybe a more manageable number,” Jones said. “If they have 10 or 12 animals at their house and they can’t feed them, maybe we can help them,” she said. “We have helped a number of people to get their numbers down to something more manageable. A lot of people have been so appreciative of that,” she said.
In many cases, it’s not that the owners really want to care for that many animals, “they just don’t want anything to happen to them,” Jones said.
“The big thing is also getting them spayed and neutered,” she said. “We see a real cycle of animals that are just reproducing year after year after year,” she said. “And people then give these puppies — who are also not fixed — away. They are giving them to friends and family who may not have the financial means to get them fixed,” Jones said. “It is a snow ball effect. What we are doing is trying to kind of get ahead of the curve. We’re trying to address that at the source of the problem.”
Those seeking food must also promise they are not using their animals for any illegal purposes or for breeding.
“We completely support responsible, ethical breeders. People who are breeding for the love of the breed, or are involved in showing,” Jones said. “They’re very responsible with who they place their puppies with. It’s not just that they are selling them at the flea market,” she said. “We don’t want to necessarily condone or support people who are just doing it as a business and without any concern for where the puppies are going or kittens are going, who are doing it as a means of income without any regard to the well-being of the animals,” Jones said.
The humane society is excited about the food pantry program. In the past few years, especially since the opening of the clinic in 2010, they’ve been able to do things “we have talked about doing for a long time. We’d just never really had the volunteers or the resources to get them together.
“But with each new program that we are able to bring to fruition: we’re just really excited,” Jones said. “Our mission is very broad. We want to enhance people’s enjoyment of their pets. We want to be leaders in the management of the pet population.”
“Our volunteers are incredible. They have such passion and such energy. That has really been the thing that has made the difference for us,” she said. “They are in it for the long haul. They see the big picture and how they can help make a difference.”
For information on receiving pet food assistance, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 678-590-1430. To schedule a time to drop off donations, call 770-253-4694.
For more information about the HELP Clinic visit www.helpspayneuter.org or call 770-304-7911.