By Yingzi Dong and Xueying Luo
Three local pet stores are participating in the pet food drive at Merrick, Massapequa and Baldwin, and will be accepting donated pet food and items until Mar 31to help local residents.
Long Island Cares started Baxter’s Pet Pantry in 2009 after learning that some residents with financial problems were choosing to feed their pets instead of themselves, William E. Gonyou, spokesperson of Long Island Cares, Inc, said. Those residents either postponed their bills, or did not pay their medical insurances to save money and keep their pets as parts of their families, Gonyou said. “[Pet Food Drive] allows people to be able to keep pets as part of their family and still pay their bills, still feed themselves.”
“Having a dog does cost me a lot in food and toys each month,” Michelle Posada, a local resident at Massapequa, said. But Posada believes it’s worth it, since the dogs have become a part of her family.
“I have two dogs which cost me around $150 dollars each month, including vets, food and snacks,” Posada said. The initiative, named Pet Food Drive, can help people with big dogs, who usually need larger amounts of food. But, especially, older pet owners on a budget.
On Mar 15, New York State Senator John Brooks announced he is hosting Pet Food Drive with three participating stores at Merrick, Massapequa, and Baldwin. The Drive is operated by Long Island Care Inc.; to appeal to local residents to participate and donate items or food to help pets in need.
Giving residents access to a pet food drive will allow them to keep their pets, but also reduce the strain on government-run animal shelters across Long Island, Melissa Inch, a public relations officer from State Senator Brooks’ office, said.
“Does the program work for them? Of course!” J. Garcia Tosgou, supervisor of Smithtown Animal Shelter, said. Tosgou also believes that the program can help elder people who live on the budget to keep their pets because they can feed their pets for free. The donations are offered to people in need who just ask for them.
Some 78 millions dogs and 85.8 millions cats are owned in the United States, and almost 44% of all households in the country have a dog, according to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
“It is much better to try and help people to keep their pets,” Lisa Olsen, a volunteer coordinator at Kids Adopt A Shelter adoption center, said. “This is a year-long problem for both people and shelters. Our shelters are overcrowded everywhere with unwanted pets and some may never make it out of the shelter. It is a big problem on Long Island and most people do not realize it.”
As of this year, there are 60 locations on Suffolk County collecting pet food. Gonyou hopes that more places will join and help them in the effort.