When a family struggles financially, it's not just the humans that suffer -- Fido and Fluffy feel it, too.
The sixth annual Tackle Pet Hunger campaign, put on by a trio of nonprofit organizations in central Ohio, is designed to take care of pets that might otherwise be dropped off at shelters by cash-strapped owners.
The drive kicks off with donations of food at local businesses Sunday, Oct. 28, through Nov. 9 and culminates in a collection event from 9 a.m. to noon Nov. 10 at Charity Newsies, 4300 Indianola Ave.
The goal for this year's drive is to collect 5,000 pounds of dog and cat food, said Jill Herbst of Columbus-based Ohio Animal Foundation, one of three nonprofits involved in the annual campaign.
The others are the Sedona Grace Foundation, started in 2011 by northwest Columbus residents Jill and Dave Cottone to provide "care packages" for pets at human food pantries, and Clintonville-based PetPromise, a food pantry strictly for pets.
"The goal of this campaign is to keep pets in their homes," Herbst said. "A lot of times people are embarrassed to say they need this kind of assistance and they're having to decide whether to feed themselves or feed their pets."
"It's significant," said Amy Bull, PetPromise coordinator. "I don't have facts and figures to back that up. I don't have science and quantitative things to capture that, but just based on the number of people who continue to contact us and say they are in need and knowing the extreme situations of some of the population in some of our neighborhoods in Columbus, I'd say it's pretty significant. It's probably a big issue."
The Sedona Grace Foundation also provides dry dog and cat food to area food pantries.
"We have heard from countless food-pantry volunteers about the joy on their clients' faces when they see the pet food," said Jill Cottone, "and many are thankful they no longer have to share their own food with their pets."
"We don't have concrete statistics, but we receive calls regularly from people who are having to make that decision," Herbst said. "A lot of times what happens is that person will experience emergency or illness ... and they just need a couple of days for help feeding their pets. It's not for long, but that's when pets are at the greatest risk for going to a shelter."
A list of dropoff locations for donations is available at tacklepethunger.com.
The food drive is supported by Park Your Paws Doggie Daycare and Pet Supplies Plus, Herbst said.
"It's very important to our food supply," Bull said of the annual drive, particularly the major pet-food collection event at Charity Newsies. "It's based 100 percent on donations. We try to keep food inventories to food that has been donated, but we do take private donations that have been given to us to purchase food.
"The food drive provides, probably I would say, a third of our annual food inventory."
Bull said her work with PetPromise is especially rewarding.
"The way that I recruit our volunteers is I tell them you're really not helping just the animals," she said. "Anytime we can keep the pet in the home by providing food, that's a win for the pet, but a lot of people we serve, those pets are part of their family, and in some cases they are their only family. It's a win for the people, too."