SHERWOOD, Ark. – The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on all aspects of life, but how is it affecting our pets?
With many pet owners facing financial hardships, it can be a challenge to take care of man’s best friend.
For example, an average 16lb bag of dog food can cost around $35. Kitty litter can cost upwards of $12 per box. These frequent costs plus additional items like treats and toys can quickly add up, especially for those who have recently lost a job or a home. During a pandemic, some even have to choose between feeding themselves and their pets. But a few local businesses are making that choice easier.
Everything a pet owner would need to keep their four-legged friends happy – cat litter, food bowls, leashes and kibble – are piled outside the Sherwood Animal Shelter, free for those who need it.
The organization is one of many who “fill the bowl” or leave out donated items during hard time to help struggling pet owners. Usually, the drive is held during holidays or emergency situations. But since the start of COVID-19, the shelter has seen that need go up. “It’s a way to help keep the pets in the family during times of crisis,” explained director Robin Breaux. Employees will refill the pile if it appears to be getting low, but, “It doesn’t last long once we get some in.”
Also up is the number of surrendered animals, either owner surrenders or those who turn in lost or wandering animals.
Breaux says they have seen a slight uptick in dropped-off pets since the start of the pandemic, but for every new guest, the shelter receives, another finds their forever home. “Our adoptions were a lot more, really than in normal years,” Breaux said, saying the quarantine and working from home has led families to look for a new addition.
CareLink understands the importance of pets, especially when it comes to Central Arkansas’ older population.
For homebound seniors, pets can be an important companion to keep the loneliness at bay. “Bringing in a pet for them could have such a major impact,” said Meredith Hale, director of development for the organization.
She says cats and dogs have been proven to help with mental and emotional stress and can even improve the life expectancy for owners.
But the pandemic has made it difficult for seniors to provide for their animals. Cost is an issue, but so is shopping for pet supplies and heading out in public for vet visits and grooming. “That’s just one more thing that they’re not able to do,” Hale said.
To make it easier, CareLink introduced the Bone Appetite program, a donation-driven service that ships food and other pet supplies straight to client’s doors at no cost to them. Initially, the program was just for Meals on Wheels recipients, but is now available to the general public, 60 and up.
The hope is if the program leaves tails wagging for both pets and their owners, it can start offering other services. “Hopefully we can expand it,” said Hale, “to vet assistance, grooming, even boarding.”
If you’re interested in helping out, both programs take donations. To learn more about Bone Appetite, call 501-372-5300 or visit CareLink’s website HERE. To learn more about the Sherwood Humane Animal Shelter, head to their Facebook page for a list of adoptable animals,or stop by during business hours.