Two Washington County food pantries help people struggling to feed their animals by providing pet food and vouchers, using donations from residents and businesses to keep the shelves replenished.
Chance Bardsley, a senior majoring in social work, struggled to afford dog food in November until the Hungry Hearts Pet Food Bank supplied him with the resources he needed, he said. Bardsley received coupons in the mail, which he redeemed at Walmart.
“There can be this attitude of ‘If you can’t afford pets, don’t have them,’ but that’s not always the case,” Bardsley said. “We all go through rough patches financially, but that doesn’t mean you have to get rid of your pets entirely.”
Bardsley has three dogs, Mille Rose, a one-year-old schnauzer-corgi mix, Bandit Bailey, an eight-month-old German shepard-black labrador mix and Daisy May, a two-year-old black lab-blue heeler mix. He adopted all three dogs in the last two years after finding them for free on Craigslist.
“I’m so thankful that I’ve had dogs because they are great stress relievers,” Bardsley said. “Daisy especially has been with me for so long, she’s kind of gotten me through college.”
Bardsley discovered Hungry Hearts in November while doing research for a social work internship. He said he was amazed at the generosity and availability of services at Hungry Hearts and did not find the application process invasive.
“I felt comfortable because the application process wasn’t invasive,” Bardsley said.
Bardsley has since created a flyer for Hungry Hearts and Ranger’s Pantry Pet Food Bank and distributed it across multiple GroupMe chats in an effort to spread awareness of their services. He hopes his family, friends and peers will reach out for help rather than give up their animals, he said.
“We all hit hard patches,” Bardsley said. “Whether you’re in or out of college, life happens. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.”
Joanne Traw, a Hungry Hearts staff member, said although it can be hard for some animal owners to reach out for help, they typically do before they let their pets go hungry.
Hungry Hearts requires applicants to live within Washington County, spay or neuter their pets, have their pets up-to-date with their shots and vaccinations and agree to not obtain nor breed more pets while using the service. Applicants must apply over the phone to receive the redeemable vouchers.
The Ranger’s Pantry Pet Food Bank has distributed over 161,806 pounds of pet food as of Nov. 22, according to the pantry.
The food pantry opened in 2010 after a housing crisis left local shelters “bursting at the seams” with surrendered dogs, said Adam Roberts, project coordinator for the Community Resource Division of Fayetteville, who oversees the pantry.
“Originally, our goal was to fix the problem before the animals got to the shelter,” Roberts said. “We wanted to keep families together.”
Supported entirely by community donations, Ranger’s Pantry supplies pet food according to the weight of each animal in the household. While encouraging Fayetteville citizens to reach out in times of need, the food pantry has placed limits on services for recurring residents in order to maintain stock for the most people.
Ranger’s Pantry sets itself apart from other food banks in the area by providing solely pet food. The pantry accepts pet food donations at any Fayetteville fire station and at the Community Resources Division office located at 125 W. Mountain St. Community members can donate by dropping off dog or cat food at any of the locations. The pantry also accepts money donations for food purchases.