Aiming to stop hunger among pets as well as people, the Long Island Cares food bank Wednesday will begin distributing pet food to those in need.
The Hauppauge-based food bank, which supplies hundreds of Long Island food pantries, has teamed up with the Animal Relief Fund in Manhattan to provide dog and cat food to needy families with pets.
"Families should not be in a position where they have to give up their pets because they can't feed them," said Paule Pachter, executive director of LI Cares. "You wouldn't give up a child because you can't feed them. Why would you give up a dog or cat?"
Shelters across the country have reported an influx in the numbers of people giving up their pets due to the economy.
"The shelters in New York City have reported an increase in dogs being abandoned, and on Long Island also there's been an increase in abandoned dogs and cats," said Susan Kaufman, president and founder of the Animal Relief Fund.
Pachter said that, starting Wednesday, food pantries will be able to order pet food, both wet and dry, from LI Cares to distribute to their clients.
Carolyn Gumbs, office manager of the Long Island Council of Churches in Riverhead, which runs a food pantry, said the donations of pet food her agency sometimes receives are always popular with clients.
"When we do receive cat food or dog food, we just put it out and it goes immediately," Gumbs said. "If people have animals, they need to be fed too. "
Lillian Woudsma, director of the Sag Harbor Food Pantry, said she welcomes the program. "There certainly is a need for it," Woudsma said.
LI Cares is starting off with several hundred pounds of dog and cat food, and will seek more from stores, manufacturers and the public.
Pachter said the pet food won't detract from the core mission of serving people. "If LI Cares can expand to support people and their pets, why not?" he said.