Cincinnati pantry helps pet owners - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Cincinnati pantry helps pet owners

CINCINNATI (AP) - A new pantry for pets offers help for people who can't bear to part with their animals even as they struggle to put food on their own tables.

The Cincinnati Food Pantry had its first distribution over the weekend, and pet owners lined up dozens deep to receive a two weeks' supply of pet food, treats, cat litter and other items. Two local nonprofit animal-rescue groups teamed up to obtain donations to supply the first giveaway, and they plan more.

Organizers said they want to make sure people are able to adequately care for their pets or aren't forced to give them up because they're going through economic hardships.

"People lose their jobs and can't afford to keep their pets, or they have to move from their house to an apartment that doesn't allow pets," said Shannon DeBra, founder of Recycled Doggies, which is working with Pet Alliance on the pantry. "Money is definitely a factor in these dogs and cats landing in the shelters."

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimated in November that 1 million to 2 million pets had been abandoned nationwide since the recession began in December 2007, based on real estate industry numbers and pet ownership figures. The Cincinnati Food pantry is the first just for pets in the city, although other food pantries have offered pet food along with groceries as the recession has dragged on.

Cyndi Loveless was among 140 families on the first distribution day, when more than 5,600 pounds of pet food was given out.

"I'd die first before I let them go," she said of her four dogs and two cats. "They're part of the family, and you can't get rid of your family."

DeBra said the pantry will hold regular giveaways if it gets enough donations. "We'd like to distribute food every two to three weeks," DeBra said. "But that depends on donations."

Shwana Garner, who recently got a job after being out of work for more than a year, got food for her three gerbils. She had considered giving them up to save money, but said they are therapeutic for her special-needs son. Loveless said a recent $400 bill to remove a tumor from one of her dogs was a hit to her thin budget, and that the help for her animal brood was appreciated.

"We've had a rough year, but it's good to see other people here who have pets and love them," she said.

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