By Kristin Schultz
NISKAYUNA — The Animal Hospital of Niskayuna is lending a helping paw to pets this winter.
In November, practice manager Samantha Acevedo started a donation drive to collect pet supplies and food to give to families that need a little help feeding and caring for their cats and dogs. She was inspired by the Salvation Army’s and other charities’ campaigns during the holidays.
“The Salvation Army helps people,” Acevedo said. “But what about the animals and the families that want to care for their animals, and can’t because they don’t have the resources?”
The resulting supplies of pet food and pet care items are being donated Schenectady Inner City Ministry’s (SICM) food pantry, which offers guests personal and pet items along with nonperishable food.
In the space of two months, the number of donated cans and bags, boxes, toys and bedding overflowed the lobby shelves, and some of the items had to be moved to a garage.
“It’s been amazing how people have responded,” said veterinarian and hospital owner Ronald Scharf.
Acevedo agreed, saying she’s “in awe” of what was collected. As part of the effort, the office offered 10 percent off on animal exams. The hospital’s clients were surprised and thankful for the effort, but Acevedo doesn’t think the discount was a main motivator.
“People came back and donated multiple times,” she said. “They gave cash donations. It was overwhelming.”
The need for food, treats, litter and supplies is great. SICM’s director of food programs, Shelly Ford, said many of the pantry’s guests have pets, and some have rescued the animals from the streets.
“Our senior population and our singles regard these animals as family members,” Ford said. “They share what they get at the pantry with their pets.”
SICM serves a variety of guests at its food pantry, and along with personal hygiene items, people receiving food stamps cannot use their benefits to buy pet food or care products.
As a result, people may give the food they get at the pantry to their pets, rather than nourishing themselves.
Ford said that, sometimes, guests will get a can of tuna and will give it to their cat rather than eating it. When the food pantry has pet food, guests can meet their own food needs and the needs of their pets.
In addition to the boxes of Milk Bones, cans of Friskies and containers of kitty litter brought in by clients, Acevedo said the hospital’s prescription food distributor donated bags of over-the-counter pet food to aid the effort.
In addition to hundreds of pounds of essentials, SICM’s food pantry will receive a number of chew toys, as well as beds and cleaning supplies.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better turnout,” Acevedo said.