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This holiday season, it’s easier than ever to make a needy pet’s holiday brighter.

As the holiday season continues, communities across the country are collecting toys, food and clothes for less fortunate families and individuals. Donations pour in for soup kitchens and food drives; yet we must not forget that it is not only people who go hungry, but their pets, too. Almost 70% of American households have a pet, and many of those have trouble making their food budget stretch to include their four-legged companions. Low income families are often forced to surrender their beloved pets because they cannot afford to feed them. Some families may even eat less to ensure that their pets get the nutrition they need.

Increasingly, food banks around the country are now recognizing this issue, and are accepting donations of food and supplies for companion animals in addition to human families. While donations can be given directly to the food bank, animal shelters and responsible pet stores all over the U.S. are also collecting donations to feed hungry animals this holiday season (and year-round). Below are just a few examples.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has created the Fill the Bowl Project to encourage people to donate pet food to companion animals in need. To help struggling families and their pets, churchgoers and other community members can go online and order free Fill the Bowl Project kits from the HSUS website at http://www.humanesociety.org/about/departments/faith/fill_the_bowl/fill-the-bowl.html?referrer=http://us.yhs4.search.yahoo.com/. Each kit includes a poster, postcards, and bin stickers to encourage pet food donations to local food banks.

The PetCo Foundation is another organization that is looking to help needy pets—again, not just over the holidays, but year-round, through their program “We Are Family Too,” which puts collection boxes in PetCo stores nationwide to collect donations of food, litter, and toys for food banks. 

Another program, called the Rescue Bank® National Pet Food Distribution Program, supports the pet-rescue community with a regional network of pet food distribution centers. These centers receive and distribute truckload donations and distribute pallet quantities to qualified 501(c)(3) groups, allowing them to transfer a portion of their food budget to other needed services, such as medical care or spay/neuter programs. Interested groups can go to http://www.rescuebank.org/recipients/ to learn more.

Animal lovers can also help needy animals by reaching out to a local shelter or rescue to see what kinds of donations they need. Non-food donations can include toys, blankets, towels, carriers, and pet food dishes.  Of course, gifts of money are always appreciated as well, to both shelters and food banks.

Don’t forget the NAPPS P4P Program which is an annual collection drive conducted by NAPPS members.  P4P is a wonderful way to give back to the community, help pets in need and gain new clients to a growing business.  Visit the NAPPS website for more information on the NAPPS P4P program.

This holiday season, it’s easier than ever to make a needy pet’s holiday brighter by donating needed items. You may consider making it a family project and pass these important values on to your children, as well!