Did you know the food bank doesn’t serve only humans? Just like we receive surplus food from human food manufacturers and retailers, we receive surplus pet food from companies like PetSmart. This pet food helps organizations like the ones featured below serve furry friends in need.
Unleashed Love Pet Rescue
Jasmine from Unleashed Love rescues dogs and cats from high-kill shelters and abandonment and helps them find foster and forever families. She provides food and supplies such as treats, toys, leashes, crates and bowls to all her foster families, so being able to get pet food from the food bank is very helpful.
Over the last few months, her rescue has seen an influx of abandoned dogs because of how many people adopted them during the pandemic without being able to care for them long term.
“A majority of our dogs are dumped on the side of the road or in the field,” she said.
Here are two of the rescued pets:
Michele began her rescue with just a few feral kittens. It grew into a spay and neuter clinic and is now a full-fledged pet rescue for dogs, cats and even birds!
Whenever the food bank has pet food available, she’s quick to order it, as it helps her
rescue save money to use for other purposes.
Her favorite part of her job is after an adoption, when she sees “the happy faces of the families that have their forever pet in their possession.” One of her most memorable moments was rescuing and reuniting a mother dog and her pup who had been split up.
One thing that makes Michele’s Rescue unique is their emphasis on helping people keep their pets despite challenges.
“There are many reasons people give up their pets,” Michele said. “The main reason is financial responsibility. This includes vet bills, emergency room visits or training issues. We give them trainers’ telephone numbers, refer them to food pantries and to other rescues that may be able to help them.”
Country Cat Lady
Jen founded Country Cat Lady because she saw a need in the community for emotional support animals in feline form. She rescues kittens, cares for them and matches them with families. What’s unusual about her rescue is that she and her volunteers identify cats with particularly friendly personalities and train them from a young age to be “emotional support” cats. They’re then paired with a family with a special needs child or become traveling cats who visit assisted living homes.
“A lot of [the people at the homes] don’t have family and none have animals anymore. So to be able to bring that kind of liveliness into their lives for a little bit is so rewarding,” Jen said.
Jen believes her rescue is the only one in the country that’s training cats in this way — but she’s seen the success of this method. Her own son is on the autism spectrum and she’s noticed he connects with cats in a unique way and learns nonverbal communication from them.
The most rewarding part of her work is “knowing we’re creating these connections emotionally between animals and humans. Seeing the connection with children with special needs coming to pet a cat — that connection of ‘oh, they like me.’ They light up.”
Partnering with the food bank to receive cat food has helped the organization save funds so they can rescue more cats.
“It’s a big help because we don’t get a lot of donations,” Jen said. “Helping out food-wise, it keeps us running.”
There’s a clear connection between neglected pets and food insecurity among their owners. If we ensure all our neighbors can access and afford enough food to thrive, fewer pets will end up in rescues. In the meantime, Feeding America West Michigan is honored to support the work of these pet rescues whenever we have enough donated pet food to do so!