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Animal Friends seeking donations for W. Pa. pet food banks

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

The cupboards at some area food banks could read like the start of the Old Mother Hubbard nursery rhyme.

Food bank volunteers are finding the cupboards are bare when it comes to cat and dog food.

Demand for dry animal food at more than 20 food banks in the region has increased at a time when there's a drop in donations, said Animal Friends spokeswoman Jolene Miklas.

The Ohio Township animal shelter collects and disburses dry cat and dog food through its Chow Wagon program to the shelters in an effort to keep pets with their families, she said.

“The food pantries came to us because their clients were concerned with their pet's well being,” Miklas said. “People were going hungry, giving their food to pets.”

Chow Wagon can lessen the worry of feeding the family, she said.

“Chow Wagon helps people and hungry pets, and it helps shelters by letting pets stay in their loving homes,” Miklas said. “If we can do one more thing to let pets stay with their families, then that's a wonderful thing.”

Sue Otto knows the importance of the Chow Wagon program.

As the director of Center for Hope in Ambridge, Otto said she's seen many families consider giving up food for themselves in an effort to keep their pet's from going hungry.

“Without Animal Friends, we wouldn't be able to have a pet food distribution,” Otto said. “We're grateful for what they give.”

Otto said more than 130 pets regularly receive food from Center for Hope, which gives away hundreds of pounds of pet food each month.

While families with pets understand the emotional bond to four-legged creatures, Otto said cats or dogs might be the only companions some of her clients have.

For families in need, pets can help children, too.

“Sometimes when you're at a low level in your life, those kids need that dog or cat,” Otto said. “That cat or dog is very good for them emotionally.”

Donations tend to drop off during summer months as school is out of session, Miklas said.

Both Miklas and Otto say they hope donations to receive donations soon.

“We really want to work with trying to get as much food as we can to people who have pets,” Otto said.

Bobby Cherry is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or rcherry@tribweb.com.

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