Feeding the Nation’s Animals Amid a Pandemic

April 16, 2020

ASPCA food distro

Over the past month, as cities and states have been under physical distancing orders, including the temporary suspension of non-essential businesses, it has become more challenging to obtain certain necessities, including pet food. 

In an effort to help pet parents in select areas who may be struggling with this issue, and thanks to generous support from the Petco Foundation, PetSmart Charities and Blue Buffalo, the ASPCA set up temporary food distribution centers in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami and Asheville, North Carolina. The centers offer free pet food to individuals by appointment. “Across the world, people are turning to their pets for comfort, and we are committed to helping animals return that love and comfort back to their families by working to ensure pets' health and safety as we weather this crisis together,” says ASPCA President and CEO Matt Bershadker.

As the centers have rolled out their services over the past couple of weeks, we’ve already received more than 6,000 phone calls, resulting in more than 3,700 appointments for food pickup across all four locations. Among those families who received free pet food, approximately 10,000 cats and dogs have been assisted. 

Despite the uncertainty and concern that the coronavirus has imposed, our staff remains in great spirits as they work to get family pets fed. And the clients are just as enthusiastic. Lia made an appointment to pick up dog food from our food distribution center in Asheville for her two dogs, Melania and Hollywood. “This is definitely going to help,” says Lia, who lives with her parents. “My mom and dad aren’t working right now, so we really appreciate this.”

Edwin from Cudahy, California, made an appointment to pick up food at the Los Angeles center for his three dogs and two cats. Edwin helps run a handyman and cleaning service with his parents, but because most of his clients are senior citizens, they currently cannot risk entering their properties. Edwin was grateful to the ASPCA for the food for his animals, saying, “Our pets are part of our family.” 

While the distribution centers’ main focus is feeding family cats and dogs, we saw a growing need in Los Angeles for equine feed assistance as well. So starting this week, we will also add alfalfa cubes (a hay substitute) to our L.A. food distribution inventory, helping horses and other equines in this hard-hit area.

Our reach also spans farther than these four cities, and even outside of the lower 48 states. Recently, the ASPCA and Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) delivered a lifeline of pet food to remote Alaska Native villages that have been unable to acquire food for hundreds of dogs. Thanks to HSUS purchasing the food and the ASPCA funding the flight, this community, which has been particularly challenged during the COVID-19 outbreak due to limited supplies and dwindling transportation options, received a lifesaving delivery of approximately 8,000 pounds of dog food.

Our efforts to keep people and pets together during this crisis will continue thanks to a generous donation of $500,000 from The Alex & Elisabeth Lewyt Charitable Trust. With their funding, the ASPCA will be able to provide critical relief to even more pets and owners who are being impacted by this pandemic. Stay tuned for more updates on our COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts