Pet food pantries

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(SWEEPS FEED)- John Tillman’s best friend, Comanche, is an Italian Mastiffe who weighs about 150 pounds and loves to eat.

“Food for dogs can get expensive and I have two big ones,” Tillman said.

When a recent injury put Tillman out of work for a bit, he struggled with buying food for everyone in the family.

“Normally, I’d give him what I have, you know, I’d fix food for myself, I’d give him what I have,” Tillman said. “Sometimes, it’s not as healthy.”

But the food shelter near his home came to Comanche’s rescue with its fully stocked pantry for pets.

“We felt it was very important for families to be able to keep their pets if they were going through a hard time, so that really was the catalyst for starting the program,” said Mary Sarah Fairweather.

Fairweather says it’s is one of many pantries popping up around the country.

“They’re definitely becoming more common with shelters and in rescues, and as well as with animal control officers,” Fairweather said.

Fairweather says the food is paid for or donated by other pet lovers.

“Most of the food that we get contributed to us is for cats and dogs, but we certainly get food for rabbits and other small animals, domesticated animals.”

Sometimes, the contributions fill more than bellies.

“People will also give us brand new toys for the pets or bedding, and we give those away as part of our food pantry,” Fairweather added.

Tillman and Comanche are thankful for the help and try to only use it when they need it most.

“If I can take care of it myself, I take care of it myself, so once in a while when I can’t, then I come here and I know I can rely on them,” Tillman said.

The Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida said it distributed 45,000 pounds of pet food to 46 partner agencies in the area over the last fiscal year. Donations came from residents, pet stores, grocery stores and grants.

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