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Westmoreland facility to gather items for animals for shelters, owners in need

| Monday, Jan. 30, 2012

The Westmoreland County Food Bank wants to feed furry friends, not just their owners.

The food bank will begin collecting donations of pet food at its Delmont facility to be distributed to local, nonprofit animal shelters as well as individuals and families who come to the food bank seeking help.

"Unfortunately, sometimes people have pets and something happens, and they can't afford to feed them," said Jennifer Miller, director of development for the food bank. "Who wants to give away their family pet• We want to help them keep their family intact, furry or otherwise."

Unopened and unused food for any kind of pet will be accepted. Food can be bagged or canned but must be unopened to avoid possible contamination, Miller said.

Miller said the food bank used to receive pet food from SuperValu, along with other nonperishable food items that were slightly damaged or close to the expiration date, but that program ended about 2004.

Since then, if the food bank received pet food donations, they would be taken to a shelter or an Operation Fresh Express distribution, but there was no formal program in place, Miller said.

Workers have been fielding more and more questions from people asking whether the food bank had any pet food, which prompted officials to start collecting pet food donations, she said.

Miller said a letter will be sent to shelters to inform them of the program and invite them to contact the food bank to participate. Shelters will receive pet food on a rotating basis.

Luann Hutcheson, manager of Action for Animals Humane Society in Derry Township, said the shelter used to receive pet food from the food bank when it participated in the SuperValu program.

"Knock on wood, we are very blessed right now (with pet food)," Hutcheson said. "It does come in handy ... to know we have somewhere we can call and say, 'We do need help this month.'"

Robin Stewart, shelter manager for Animal Friends of Westmoreland, said she likes the idea of the food bank giving pet food along with people food to families who need help, but it won't help her shelter.

"We actually use a specific kind of food, which is supplied by one of our very generous volunteers," Stewart said. "We like to use a regular kind of food because the dogs are already stressed enough without changing their kind of food all the time."

Stewart said the Youngwood shelter might donate to the food bank other brands of pet food that people have dropped off at the shelter.

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