When Anicira started its pet food pantry 11 years ago, it was to make sure cats and dogs don’t go hungry. Since then, the nonprofit veterinary organization has grown to serve 75 families a month, and the need for pet food is growing.
Due to pay cuts, job losses and furloughs in response to the economic impact of COVID-19, Katie Nicholson, marketing and communications manager for Anicira, said the number of people the organization serves is only expected to increase.
“We want to make sure pets in our area can eat and be healthy,” Nicholson said. “As unemployment rises, we anticipate a volume higher than ever to serve families.”
To make the pet food pantry possible, Anicira relies heavily on local businesses, such as Costco, Petco and PetSmart, along with donations to have a variety of food available.
On Thursday, two days before opening its pet food pantry, it received a donation from the Rockingham-Harrisonburg SPCA and Walmart Distribution Center that managed to fill the inside of a van with bags of pet food.
Costco also made a donation of $150, along with allowing Anicira to buy extra bags of food to go toward the pet food pantry.
Nicholson said that due to limitations on how much food Anicira can purchase at each store, it has been relying on donations more than ever before.
“We have also received a lot of support from social media,” she said. “We just want to make sure people know about it.”
On Saturday, the pet food pantry will be open from 10 a.m. to noon and be operated as a drive-thru — something that has “never been done before,” Nicholson said. The pantry will be open again on the second Saturday of each month.
Those who are unable to visit the pantry on Saturday for their first visit can fill out an application on Anicira’s website and set up an appointment to visit.
“We are usually very busy when open,” Nicholson said. “10 a.m. to noon is a quick time period, but we offer cat and dog food, litter and any essential items needed to be healthy and fed.”
While there is no limit on how much pet food a person can take from the pantry, Nicholson said the nonprofit tries to give the appropriate amount of food to each visitor.
To support the pet food pantry, Nicholson said food can be donated at the adoption center off Medical Avenue and monetary donations are accepted through its website.
Pale Fire Brewing Co. is also offering a pet food pantry as part of its pop-up food bank to support local restaurant workers in need.
Those in Rockingham and Page counties can reach out to Valley Rescue Allies for assistance by visiting its website.