Hamilton pet store and customers donate 3,200 pounds to pet-food pantries

Customers of Pet Wants Hamilton and the store itself have combined to donate 3,200 pounds of food to ‘pet-food pantries’ so needy people can continue feeding their dogs and cats.

With the coronavirus pandemic and the economic troubles many face because of it, Rachel Steinman, who owns Pet Wants with her husband, Chris Miller, didn’t want people to choose between paying their rent and electric bill, and having to get rid of beloved animals.

“We knew there were a lot of folks that were struggling out there with them losing their jobs, with them having to make hard decisions on their pets, surrendering them,” she said. “We reflected on that and said, ‘How can we help? What can we do to make a difference?’”

On “Giving Tuesday,” which fell on Dec. 1, the store at 139 Main St. launched a fundraiser in which whenever customers would buy a pound of food to donate, “we matched that pound for pound,” Steinman said. “And then, as an added thank-you to our pack of customers, we told them if we were able to make our goal, we would also make a cash donation.”

The goal was to raise 1,000 pounds of food. That was reached by Dec. 13. So they tried for 1,500 pounds each by customers and the store. That ended up at 1,600 pounds each, for 3,200 pounds, to be split by pantries at Animal Friends Humane Society and Animal Adoption Foundation. The store’s cash donation rose from $500 to $750.

“We were completely blown away by their graciousness,” she said of the customers. “We really were.”

Tara Bowser, the executive director at Animal Friends Humane Society, said its pet-food pantry “is a pet-food assistance program for low-income or struggling families of Butler County.”

People who need assistance should not just show up at the humane society, for physical-distancing and other reasons, she said. Instead, they should call 513-867-5727 and press extension 0 to leave a voice message with their name, phone number and address. They will receive calls back from someone who will speak with them and set up specific appointments for Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

The other pet-foot pantry is at Animal Adoption Foundation, whose number is 513-737-7387.

Shelters are concerned that if the economy worsens, and as people are evicted from their housing, “and we know it’s going to be a struggle for them to find housing, not only for themselves, but that allows pets as well,” Bowser said. “Because there are a lot of places that still restrict animals or they have maybe a pet fee or a pet deposit that you have to pay” that some won’t be able to afford.

“As of now, we are still getting the same numbers of people contacting us to surrender (pets), nothing too crazy, and usually it’s just moving, it’s not that there’s a hardship where they can’t keep the pet just yet,” she said. “But that is on our radar. We do expect that to come in this year.”

Animal Friends also has seen a drop in numbers of volunteers because of health concerns during the coronavirus period, although the level has improved some.

“We couldn’t allow a lot of volunteers in here, and once we did open again, our consistent ones were coming, but the majority of our other ones still don’t feel safe to do so,” Bowser said.

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