Imagine being homebound without a pet. Not having interactions with a cat or a dog is inconceivable to me. Yet, many homebound people have to give up their pets because they cannot afford to feed them. Thankfully, there is a program called AniMeals. Just like Meals On Wheels for humans, AniMeals provides food for pets who live with homebound people.
I first learned about AniMeals, from Mike Arms, executive director of the Helen Woodward Animal Center (HWAC) in CA. Mike shared a story about a volunteer who divided her time between HWAC and her local Meals On Wheels program. “The volunteer noticed that clients with pets often shared at least half of their meals with their companions,” explains Mike. “The result was that both the owners and pets were suffering from lack of proper nutrition. So AniMeals was formed in 1984 to serve dogs and cats of elderly or disabled homebound clients throughout San Diego County.”
“AniMeals guarantees that no one will have to give up their dog or cat because they cannot afford to feed them,” says Mike. “For many homebound individuals, a dog or cat provides friendship, joy, and often a reason for living. Studies show that having a pet lowers illness levels and mortality rates.”
Expanded in 1993, AniMeals works with seven area Meals On Wheels centers and many other organizations to serve more than 250 pets throughout San Diego County. The program, which is run with one part-time supervisor and one part-time assistant, relies on the commitment of approximately 40 dedicated volunteers.
Much of the food used in the program is donated. Donation bins are located in pet supply stores and supermarkets around San Diego County. Volunteers collect the food on a regular basis and bring it to the Center where it is individually packaged for each client on a weekly basis for delivery to Meals On Wheels and other distributions sites.
How You Can Help
AniMeals is in need of canned pet food. You can help by donating food at HWAC or by dropping your donations in the AniMeals bins at various Petco and Vons stores in San Diego. Or you can hold your own AniMeals pet food drive. Contact HWAC at 858-756-4117 or click here for more information.
If You Don’t Live in Southern CA
You can still contact HWAC or your local Meals On Wheels to find out about creating a program in your neighborhood. Banfield Charitable Trust has partnered with Meals On Wheels Association of America (MOWAA) to support similar programs.
Banfield Charitable Trust holds an event during the last few months of the year called Season of Suppers. “They collect pet food donations and monetary donations at their Banfield Pet Hospitals located in PetSmarts around the country,” says Logan Goulett, marketing coordinator for MOWAA. “They then give these donations to the nearest local Meals On Wheels program that offers a pet food program. They also offer several grants each year to Meals On Wheels to either help with starting up a new program, or to assist in funding a current pet food program.”
If you know of any homebound people with pets, I hope you will share this story with them and their caretakers.