Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

SPCA Suncoast gives free pet food to struggling pet owners

NEW PORT RICHEY — Nora Malone was laid off in January from her job as a nurse, and money had gotten tight.

So Malone stopped by the SPCA Suncoast on Thursday with a free voucher that allowed her to pick up cat food for her four kittens and two cats. The New Port Richey woman walked out a few minutes later with one bag of Chicken Formula and another of Complete Care Natural Choice for her brood.

"This is a great help," said Malone, 49. "It's been a struggle."

The SPCA Suncoast works with the Volunteer Way food bank to help feed families who have fallen on tough times. The Volunteer Way provides meals and hands out vouchers for free pet food at the SPCA's Animeal pantry.

As the economy has tanked, the number of families cashing in those vouchers has skyrocketed.

Last year the nonprofit animal shelter on Congress Street gave away 384 batches of pet food.

So far this year, that number is up to 1,043.

When people stop by to use the voucher, which has no expiration date, they're given about three weeks worth of pet food that comes from donations.

If the SPCA has any to give.

"There's been a few weeks in the past few months where we can't provide them food," said Gail Armstrong, executive director of the SPCA. "People get to the point where even if we give them food, that's still not enough."

Which is why the SPCA has also seen a jump in the number of pet owners surrendering their animals to the shelter because they can no longer keep them. In the first nine months of this year, SPCA has accepted 376 surrendered pets — already surpassing last year's total of 331.

"They feel like their back is against a wall," Armstrong said of pet owners. "There's no hope to keep the animal with them."

At a maximum, the shelter can hold up to 110 animals, Armstrong said, but said there are days when they turn away dozens of animals because they simply don't have the space.

"We can make appointments, so that as soon as animals get adopted, we can take in more," she said. "You get to the point where there's absolutely no space to hold them."

One cause for the increase in animal surrenders is economic constraints that have forced lifestyle changes among families, Armstrong said.

"A lot of people are consolidating, have been foreclosed on or are moving out of state," she said. "If you had three separate households with pets, like a son and a grandmother, and everyone moving together and all have pets, they can't afford to keep pets."

But the influx of animals has brought an uptick in pet adoptions: From January through September of last year, there were 799 adoptions. During the same period this year, there were 888.

The euthanasia rate has averaged around 8.5 percent of the animals coming into the shelter, Armstrong said.

While the demands on the shelter have increased, donations have gone down because of the economy.

"We're seeing a drop in monetary donations," Armstrong said, "but we're seeing more pets coming in."

Armstrong said her organization hopes more donations trickle in to help purchase more food so people won't have to give up their pets.

"When you're in a stressful situation, you want your pets because of the comfort they can bring you," Armstrong said. "When you're stressed about the economy and you have to take that heart-wrenching step of giving your pet away, it's sad."

Camille C. Spencer can be reached at cspencer@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4609.

By the numbers

331 Pets surrendered to the SPCA Suncoast shelter in 2008.

376 Pets surrendered to the shelter from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30.

384 Animeal vouchers used in 2008.

1,043 Animeal vouchers used from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30.

Source: SPCA Suncoast

Fast facts

To help out

The SPCA Suncoast shelter is located at 7734 Congress St. in Port Richey. For information or to make a donation, call (727) 849-1048.

SPCA Suncoast gives free pet food to struggling pet owners 10/03/09 [Last modified: Saturday, October 3, 2009 10:29am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Is Bucs kicker Nick Folk a significant upgrade over Roberto Aguayo?

    Bucs

    Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter made it clear.

    Bucs kicker Nick Folk is entering his 11th NFL season. He spent three seasons with the Cowboys and seven with the Jets. [LOREN ELLIOTT  |  Times]
  2. Florida education news: Student discipline, online learning, solar eclipse glasses and more

    Blogs

    STUDENT DISCIPLINE: Everyone wants their child to behave in school. But sometimes defining what that means causes dissention. That was the case this week at a Pasco County elementary school, which A Pasco County elementary school has adopted a new behavior model that encourages cooperation and responsibility. Some parents are upset that it also seems to support giving in to peer pressure.

  3. Pinellas wants to see impact of tourism bucks spent on big events

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER –– Pinellas County relies on more than just beaches to attract visitors. County government also spends millions to help sponsor big-name events to draw even more tourists.

    The Pinellas County Tourist Development Council awareded up to $250,000 to help sponsor the 2018 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  4. Zephyrhills begins residential lien forgiveness program

    Local Government

    ZEPHYRHILLS — A new program is under way to forgive liens on certain residential properties in the city to combat blight, encourage improvements to properties and spur home ownership.

    City Manager Steve Spina said after the council’s unanimous vote, the new lien forgiveness program is up and running.
  5. With reluctance, New Port Richey continues funding for Main Street program

    Local Government

    NEW PORT RICHEY — City officials on Tuesday night had their annual debate on whether to continue funding the New Port Richey Main Street program. The group remains financially strapped and claims it cannot survive without city funding.

    Said New Port Richey Mayor Rob Marlowe: “I think the Main Street program has gone seriously off the rails.”