During the holidays, giving to those in need, whether it is an extra can of food, a coat, or a new toy, is a wonderful thing. It is also a time to remember the pets who need help. Sixty-eight percent of American households have pets, and while there aren’t exact estimates as to how many of these households are below the poverty line, it stands to reason that the need is substantial. We love our pets, and for good reason. They not only provide companionship, they bring joy, humor and love into our lives. They teach children about responsibility and appreciation for all God’s creatures. Pets can provide a special comfort for people living in-need, the elderly, or the sick-and-shut-in and lighten what may otherwise be heavy burdens.
Food banks across the country receive countless requests for pet food and supplies throughout the year. Often, instead of relinquishing a pet, some low-income pet owners will cut back on their own food to share what little they have with their beloved companions. The Humane Society of the United States launched the Fill the Bowl project to provide opportunities for members of faith communities to collaborate with food banks to provide donations pet food and supplies.
In most cases, access to food and basic care is often all it takes to keep low-income families and their pets together. Access to free pet food can make the difference in a family’s ability to keep a pet or give them up to face an uncertain future.
“There’s no measure to the blessings animals bring to our lives,” says the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, bishop for the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. “And it’s especially heartwarming when you hear tales of those with so little doing with even less in order to provide for their animals. Those folk are better stewards than even they know, as it’s long been a part of some of the medieval legends about Christmas that it was the animals who attended Christ’s birth that night in the manger when no one else was there. Remembering the animals’ hospitality by extending our own to them is a wonderful way to honor the important roles animals play in our lives.”
We are approaching the season of giving, when communities across the country collect toys, clothes and food for needy families. Yet, despite the reality that many of these families have pets, very few donation drives include pet food.
The holiday season reminds us of the people who are less fortunate. Let us continue to expand our circle of compassion to include the animals and the people who love them. Add an extra bag of pet food to your food bank donation this year or start your own pet food collection in your church community through The Fill the Bowl Project. Reach out to your local animal shelter and offer a partnership for the holidays. Ask if they need a pet food collection, dog and cat toys, or blankets for the homeless animals in their care.
Providing sustenance for pets is more than a can or bag of food – it’s an acknowledgement of the important role that pets have in our lives, and a symbol of community support for every member of the family.
The HSUS is rated a 4-star charity (the highest possible) by Charity Navigator, approved by the Better Business Bureau for all 20 standards for charity accountability, voted by Guidestar’s Philanthropediaexperts as the #1 high-impact animal protection group, and named by Worth Magazine as one of the 10 most fiscally responsible charities.