First State Animal Center to host pet food drive

Volunteers from the Brandywine Valley Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals load pet food into the trunk of a car during one of its events earlier this year. First State Animal Center in Camden, along with three other shelters, will host a similar event Sunday from noon until 3 p.m. (Submitted photo)

CAMDEN — The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have trickled down and put an unexpected financial burden on many who are finding it difficult to take care of their pets.

Suddenly, paying for health care and purchasing food for animals has put a financial strain on parents of pets, particularly the elderly and those who have been left without work during the coronavirus crisis.

That’s why the First State Animal Center and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Camden has partnered with the Delaware SPCA, the Delaware Humane Society and Faithful Friends — the four original animal shelters in Delaware — for a free pet food-distribution drive-by event Sunday. The event will take place at the First State Animal Center at 32 Shelter Circle in Camden from noon until 3 p.m., rain or shine.

“We have put all our cat food and dog food together, and we’re going to be doing a mega-food donation here at First State Animal Center in Camden, but it is open to the state,” said John Parana, executive director of the shelter and the SPCA. “It’s something we’re trying to do to give back, and this is the four original facilities in Delaware, and we’re trying to do something good for people and their pets.”

Mr. Parana said that his facility has had at least three pet surrenders a week during the pandemic, the majority of which are dogs.

“It is why we’re having (the food giveaway) now. It’s a very, very sad time,” he said. “Every week, we are taking animals that are being owner-surrendered. It’s typically only the shelters that will accept surrendered animals. Nobody else does.

“We’re taking them in, and almost 90% of the reason or more is people are losing their homes, losing their rentals, losing their apartments, just because of no work and no income, not being able to make the payments that might have been deferred. We’re also seeing an influx of people that are coming in to see if we have discount (animal-care) services, because it’s just not there. It’s very trying times.”

He added: “I can only speak for our shelter, but we’re averaging three (surrendered animals) a week, primarily dogs, but we get cats, also. That’s a high return ratio for surrenders.”

While figures released Friday by the Delaware Department of Labor show the unemployment rate going down, money to support animals is still hard to find for many, because most acquired their pets pre-pandemic.

According to figures released Friday by the Delaware Department of Labor, Delaware’s unemployment rate fell from 10.5% to 8.9% last month.

In real terms, that means 44,500 members of the Delaware workforce were not employed in August, down from 53,000 the month before (although the total labor force also saw a decrease). Despite the improvements, the numbers are still a long way from pre-COVID-19 times: The unemployment rates for the state and nation in August 2019 were 3.9% and 3.7%, respectively.

“It’s just trying times, and we’ll get through it,” said Mr. Parana. “Delaware has a lot of animal lovers, and we all stick together.”

Mr. Parana believes the four organizations will come together to fill a tractor-trailer load of free pet food for those who need assistance.

“But you know what?” he said. “It goes fast.”

The pet food giveaway event will have all the COVID-19 restrictions in place for safety and to help stop the spread of the virus.

“People will stay in their cars, wear their masks, and all of our workers will be wearing masks, and (the people will) tell us what their needs are, and we’ll go get it and make sure it’s loaded in their vehicles,” Mr. Parana said. “We’re all happy to help during these difficult times.”

Brandywine Valley SPCA holds 10th drive-thru pantry
The Brandywine Valley SPCA held its most recent drive-thru pet food pantry to help families in need today at the Wilmington Blue Rocks’ Frawley Stadium.

It was the organization’s 10th drive-thru pantry. The events have been held across Delaware and southeastern Pennsylvania, and they each fed 800 or more pets. The drive-thru format requires participants to arrive in a vehicle, where they remain while BVSPCA staff requests, from a 6-foot distance, information on the pets, then loads the food into the trunk.

Like First State Animal Center and the SPCA in Camden, the pantries are part of the BVSPCA’s commitment to help prevent families from needing to surrender their beloved pets to a shelter for economic reasons.

“The number of families facing sudden job loss during the pandemic is heartbreaking,” said Adam Lamb, BVSPCA’s CEO. “We want to play a small part in helping by alleviating the financial pressures of caring for the furry family members they love so much.”

Feeding the family pet has just become another difficult challenge for many in the grips of a pandemic.

“This continues to be a difficult time for everyone, but it’s important that we don’t overlook our pets as we grapple with the many changes brought on by this global pandemic,” Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki said in a statement. “The Brandywine Valley SPCA is doing tremendous work on behalf of animals and their families, and as always, I urge everyone to continue to support these efforts.”

Since the start of the pandemic, the Brandywine Valley SPCA has distributed more than 200,000 pounds of pet food to families in need and sent several truckloads of pet food to other shelters for their pantries.

Food Bank to host pair of food distributions
The Food Bank of Delaware will be helping families and individuals in need of food during the coronavirus crisis with a pair of free drive-thru food distributions in Kent and Sussex counties this week.

Young volunteers James and Lilah Kurdes of Lewes load cases of food into a vehicle during a Food Bank of Delaware food distribution earlier this year at Crossroad Community Church, near Georgetown. Looking on is their mother, Kerry Bratton. (Delaware State News file photo)

The Food Bank will be hosting a drive-thru event Wednesday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Dover International Speedway, with a second drive-thru event Friday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Crossroad Community Church at 20684 State Forest Road in Georgetown. People do not need to register for the events, but it does help the check-in lines move faster.

Just like families and their pets, many people have been financially impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic and are in need of assistance.
The Food Bank of Delaware continues to answer that call.

“We believe that the increased need stems from both the pandemic, plus individuals who were food insecure prior,” said Kim Turner, spokesperson for the Food Bank of Delaware. “Before the pandemic, there were an estimated 121,000 food-insecure Delawareans.

“Estimates show that an additional 50,000 Delawareans will be food insecure due to COVID-19. We are seeing people from all walks of life in our food-distribution lines — seniors, families with young children, individuals with disabilities and more.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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