With inflation on the rise, it’s become even more expensive to own a pet. Many Denver pet owners are struggling to find a way to finance their pets’ needs. But the Colorado Pet Pantry is stepping in to bridge that gap.
“We want to give people the option and ability to be able to keep their pets if that is what their family wants to do,” said Colorado Pet Pantry Founder and Executive Director Eileen Lambert. “If the pet is already in a good living situation, it’s always good not to break that tie.”
According to Lambert, the number of people needing assistance is up from last year when over 33,000 families received support. That adds up to about 115,000 dogs and cats and comes out to about 7 million meals for 2022.
This year, the need for donations has been especially high. Inflation has played a large role in that, but a significant cut back on federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits has increased the number of families needing help.
“Although you can’t buy pet food with food stamps, people have less overall resources,” Lambert said. “If people have less food stamps, they need to use more of their own financial resources to feed the humans in the family. If we can get more donations, we can help people with their pet food so that families can have money for other things.”
The cost of pet food rose 14.4% from 2022, according to the consumer price index, which is 6% higher than inflation on groceries. That means pet owners could be spending hundreds of dollars more a year on pet food alone. And with the never-ending rise in housing and other living costs, it could lead to the difficult decision to surrender a beloved friend. Denver shelters have seen an alarming 37% increase in pets surrendered, overwhelming their resources.
Many organizations that offer pet food assistance require owners to be on assistance. But Lambert said the pet pantry is there to help anyone who “raises their hand and says they need help.” The Colorado Pet Pantry’s website has an event calendar with all of their pet food banks. All families need to do is show up with an ID to one of the 103 monthly events to receive help once every two months.
“It’s one month on one month off,” Lambert said. “We’re not meant to cover all of their pet food means. We’re meant to be supplementary.”
Most of the stock of pet food handed out at Colorado Pet Pantry’s events is acquired through donations. Lambert said they need donations now more than ever.
“We couldn’t do this without donations. The only reason that what we do is viable and sustainable is because of the donations,” Lambert said. “We are always trying to keep up with the need for [donations] because we are always busier than the month before. People are always having struggles.”
Those interested in helping the Colorado Pet Pantry with donation efforts can donate financially through their website. Families who have extra pet food laying around their house can donate by bringing spare food to one of their donation drop-off locations. The organization is also hosting an event for their tenth birthday and national dog day on August 26th, which they hope will help with their donation efforts.
“The fact that we’re able to keep pets in their loving homes is a win-win-win. It’s a win for the family. It’s a win for the pets, and it’s a win for the animal shelters,” Lambert said. “And it costs us $5 to feed a pet for a month, and we’re able to do so much good with just that $5.”