Austin’s remarkable pet-food network

According to an AP story, more pet owners across the country are unable to afford pet food and, therefore, are lining up outside food pantries to feed their animals. This among other tough choices pet owners are having to make in the wake of the foreclosure crisis, looming recession, rising cost of fuel and other financial pressures.

The story reports that many pet owners are choosing to abandon their pets or dump them on a friend of relative because they can no longer afford to care for them.

In looking to find out if more people in Austin are turning to pet food banks, I learned a little about the web of individuals and groups that help keep Austin animals fed every day and – let me tell you – it’s complicated.

For example, my first thought was to contact Town Lake Animal Shelter. Turns out they do accept donations, but I learned from its Web site that they prefer only canned pet food and they don’t hand out pet food to individuals. (Why only canned? It stores better than dry.)

If you do give dry pet food, that gets picked up from a woman named Liz who operates a massive pet food bank out of her garage. She distributes mostly to animal rescue groups in Austin rather than individuals, though she has helped Katrina victims and their pets. She also operates a greyhound rescue group, by the way.

Liz picks up from the shelter but also receives donations from barrels placed around pet stores, Wal-marts and Targets around the city. Notice that broken 100-pound bag of dog food spilling into the aisle? That’s probably going to wind up in Liz’s garage.

Apparently if you’re an individual who needs help feeding your pet, you turn to Animal Trustees of Austin. I haven’t heard back from them yet to confirm this, but when I do I will update this site. I also hope to learn if more people are seeking free pet food.

How is it that we don’t know more about this huge network of groups helping Austin animals? Well, as Liz put it: “There are people out there who do some of these things… we don’t make a big deal out of it. Maybe it’s because, for one thing, we can’t do much more than we’re doing.”

In her 10 years of running this pet food bank out of her garage, Liz also adds, “I have met some people I never would have met and done some things I never would have done.” Does she have plans for slowing down? “Well, I have noticed that since I turned 70 a few years ago, I can’t lift those 50-pound bags like I used to.”

 

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