Based on the response to this Facebook post back in January, we know that many of you already have Ani-meals-type programs, delivering pet food and supplies to the elderly, homebound, and others in need.
Now it’s more important than ever to do all we can to keep pets and their people together, safe in their homes. We caught up with Leah Enderle, Program Coordinator of HomeBuddies for DeKalb, IL-based Tails Humane Society, for the nuts and bolts of their program. We also nabbed some advice for starting one at your org.
How it works: Since late 2010, HomeBuddies has served 69 human clients and close to 220 animal clients. Tails Humane Society partners with the Voluntary Action Center (VAC)’s Meals on Wheels. “We administer all aspects of the program from creating the application to interviewing the clients,” explains Enderle. “The VAC helps by doing two things for us: first, by distributing our application to new Meals on Wheels Clients who have pets during their interview and intake process. And second, by delivering the pet food that we drop off at the VAC to our shared clients bi-weekly.”
The Association: Has COVID-19 impacted the program in any way?
LE: As of today, we are still going strong. We recently relaxed our client application criteria and more homebound seniors are able to qualify for our program. With this change, we anticipate to see our program grow. A few current Meals on Wheels/ HomeBuddies clients have chosen to pause their service due to concerns over COVID-19. Those clients are staying with friends or family at this time or are having friends or family care for them and their pets.
If the situation seems to be getting worse or Meals on Wheels/VAC decides to halt deliveries, we would send out a one-month supply (possibly more) of food to our clients in order to help them prepare for the long haul. Our vet is no longer seeing public clients (HomeBuddies clients included). If a client should become due for their yearly checkup and vaccines, they will need to wait, as those appointments are currently on hold.
The Association: What advice do you have for your colleagues in the field who want to start a similar program?
LE: Start by talking to your local VAC or Meals on Wheels. Work on creating a partnership by assessing the need in your community. Once you have an idea of the need, you can create a plan for your program. Here are some things you’ll need to look at:
6 Tips For Starting a Pet Food Delivery Program In Your Community
Enderle suggests that you consider the following as you plan:
1.) How will you get pet food? Donations from local businesses, grants, public donations, etc.?
2.) Will you provide basic veterinary care? Do you employ a vet, or will you send clients to a partner vet?
3.) What other services might you be willing and able to provide? (Rabies tags, nail trims, etc)
4.) If you are seeking a grant to get the program off the ground, what is your financial plan to sustain the program?
5.) Does your local Meals on Wheels / VAC qualify for grants for pet care through Meals on Wheels America or through your city or county’s community or human interest grants?
6.) What qualifications will your clients need to meet? SNAP/ EBT benefits? Homebound? Able to bring their pets to your vet 1x a year? Number of pets per person? We have a limit of 4, based on county regulations. Animals must be seen by our vet at least 1x per year and kept current on vaccines (we cover cost).