Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY, PETS

People & Pets Together keeps families from giving up animals

Posted on 28 August 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Local nonprofit helps families and their pets during economic crisis

By Chloe Peter
An older woman walked through the door of People & Pets Together, a program that provides pet food and supplies for those in need. When getting her pet food, she started up a conversation with volunteers and pulled out her phone to show pictures of her two cats, her face lighting up. She’s a regular at the food shelf.
Her husband is no longer living, and her children live out of state. Often, she’ll come in and give updates on the cats’ health or something funny they did that week. Nick Atwood, the program director at People & Pets Together, has come to know her very well over the years.
“For seniors like her on a fixed income, surviving largely on Social Security, our services are very important,” Atwood said, “She has told us more than once that without us providing her with food and cat litter, she would not be able to afford to keep her pets.”
People & Pets Together is a nonprofit organization based at 3745 Bloomington Ave. The program started in 2009. It was the midst of a financial crisis. People were out of jobs, and families were struggling to keep their homes. Not only did People & Pets Together provide food, but also, cat litter, food and water dishes, leashes and collars, and even flea and tick prevention, so the families could keep their beloved pets and have one less thing to worry about in difficult times.
“We heard stories of people who were considering surrendering their family pet because they could not afford to care for the dog and cat anymore. The stories were heartbreaking,” Atwood said.
The official pet food shelf opened in 2016. They first focused on getting food and care out for people who had pets in the Phillips and Powderhorn neighborhoods of Minneapolis. But, they have since expanded to serving the entire city. People qualify to receive free pet food if they participate in a government assistance program, such as food support, Medicaid or housing assistance, or if they are unemployed or their annual income falls below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines. On average, People & Pets together help 25 families get the food they need for their pet each day. In 2019 alone, they served nearly 900 households.
The program’s mission is “to support the relationships that people have with their pets, and to prevent the surrender of pets during times of economic crisis.”

Donation drop box
During COVID-19, People & Pets Together has seen an increase of demands for pet food and other supplies. There are more first-time clients than in years past, and they’re serving many people who worked in restaurants and other businesses closed by the pandemic.
People & Pets Together is also providing pet food to other food shelves in the Twin Cities and have had to increase their deliveries because the other shelters are seeing increased demand, as well. This year, the program has delivered more than 40,000 pounds of pet food to other food shelves.
“We welcome donations of pet food and gently used pet supplies. We have a drop box in the parking lot behind our pet food shelf where donations can be placed at any time. Financial donations are especially appreciated,” Atwood said. Financial donations can also be made online at peopleandpetstogether.org.
People & Pets Together has also been impacted by the recent protests and uprising. Many grocery stores, small markets, and dollar stores in the program’s area were damaged or closed. This, too, has increased the number of people coming to look for pet food and supplies at the food shelf because essentials are difficult to find. However, this has not stopped the community from giving back. People & Pets Together has seen increased donations both from neighborhood drives and pet food manufacturers.
“It has been encouraging to see the community respond by donating food and money to help residents and community groups,” Atwood said, “We often hear from our clients that they would spend their last dollar to purchase food for their pet rather than to buy food for themselves.”
The People & Pets Facebook page is overflowing with comments of gratitude from other shelters, individuals, and families that the program has impacted. Several people made comments about fundraising in their neighborhoods, donating money for birthdays instead of receiving gifts, and even starting a lemonade stand where all proceeds go to charity and set up laundry baskets labeled “PETS” to be filled with supplies.
“When we give people food to feed pets, we take one worry off their list and allow them to focus on their own needs,” Atwood said.