The Greater Birmingham Humane Society does more than just find homes for pets. Since 2009, they’ve been helping pets stay at home. And they’re getting better and better at it.
In 2012 alone, 535 cats and dogs stayed at home thanks to the Pet Pantry program, which was designed to give financially struggling pet owners the necessities to get through tough times.
The program was the idea of GBHS outreach coordinator, Christy Little, along with several volunteers.
“We saw people coming in (to give up their pets) that were really upset because they had just been laid off of work, their houses foreclosed, or just didn’t know what do do,” Little said. “It’s not a permanent situation, but temporary, and we want to help people continue to take care of their pets.”
Because of generous donations, GBHS can offer to spay and neuter pets of Pet Pantry homes for just $10.
The program has evolved since its inception three years ago, Little said. The society began by simply giving out dog food and cat food to whoever came by the office. Once word spread around, the service was abused. “It wasn’t the best idea,” she said. “People were driving up in Lincolns. We decided we would begin a bit of a screening process.”
Now the only ones who can benefit from the program are those who are unemployed, underemployed, on disability, or can prove that they are not able to provide for their pet temporarily. Those who are approved can pick up food any six months within a twelve-month period for two years.
Pet Pantry receives no government aid and is fully funded by donors and orchestrated by volunteers. “This program would not happen if we didn’t have willing volunteers. So much of what happens is behind the scenes.” GBHS currently has 330 active volunteers, 10 of them specifically giving their time to Pet Pantry.
Sometimes they run out of food and can’t help people. “We’re dealing with finite resources,” Little said.
“We expect continued expansion of the program,” Little said, “so we are looking at some fundraising ideas in order to make sure we have enough resources to match the demand in the community.”
Those interested in using the program or donating food or money can call (205) 397-8538. The line goes straight to voicemail but a volunteer will call back in a week or two. Food is distributed to pet owners by appointment on the first Saturday of every month.