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AniMeals helps seniors feed their pets


Program operates through Meals on Wheels and now is available in Wilsonville

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - The FIDO dog food bank in Oregon City, shown here, helps supply AniMeals programs around Clackamas County, including a new chapter at the Wilsonville Community Center.It sounds like something out of a Dickensian novel, but it’s true, and it’s happening all around us, even in Wilsonville.

Senior citizens living on a fixed income are the primary victims, said Wilsonville resident Jackie Catto. But they’re not the only ones she has heard about who have resorted to giving their own food to a beloved pet when supplies, money or both have run short.

It’s a tragic situation that Catto is working hard to change through the AniMeals program for pets, an offshoot of the well-known Meals on Wheels food delivery service for seniors. Instead of hot meals, however, AniMeals serves up two-week supplies at a time of dog or cat food to pet owners who otherwise could not care for their animals.

“We recently started doing AniMeals with the Meals on Wheels folks,” said Catto, who is president of Clackamas County FIDO, or Friends Involved in Dog Outreach, which runs a dog food bank alongside the county’s dog services building in Oregon City.

“The reason for it is they found that a lot of seniors were giving their pets their food. With a lot of seniors, these pets are the only family they have, and they’ll take care of their pets before they’ll take care of themselves,” Catto said.

In Clackamas County, Meals on Wheels is run through Clackamas County Social Services and Senior Meals, with food and other resources being distributed to cities and their respective community centers and senior programs. AniMeals now is tapping into the same network to distribute pet food every two weeks to owners who otherwise are unable to afford to care for their companions. Eligible pet owners usually are identified through Meals on Wheels and added to the AniMeals roster.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - The FIDO dog food bank, located on the countys Red Soils Campus in Oregon City, is the main storage space for AniMeals resources in Clackamas County. The AniMeals program is new to Wilsonville, Catto said, although it has been offered through FIDO and its network of donors for years now in other Clackamas County communities.

“We have been on the edge of the county for a long time, so we’re glad to see the seniors in need here receiving food,” she said.

AniMeals is a national program inspired by the Helen Woodward Animal Center in San Diego. Locally, it now serves 222 cats and 101 dogs, delivering an average of nearly 900 pounds of cat food and 600 pounds of dog food every other week to local senior centers. There are more than 162 seniors currently signed up to receive pet food along with meals, Catto said.

In Wilsonville, an AniMeals donation barrel was put in place a week ago, and already it is filling up with large bags of dog food. City of Wilsonville Senior Programs Manager Patty Brescia said the community center has considered linking up with AniMeals in the past but concluded the need did not yet exist.

In 2014, however, that has changed, she said.

“We’ve heard about this and surveyed our home delivery folks to see if they had that need,” Brescia said. “And the last time we talked about this we didn’t feel there was a strong enough need.”

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Covers for dog beds are among the huge array of items stocked by FIDO for distribution to low-income dog owners. Senior centers in Clackamas County, including Wilsonville, tell FIDO the number of needy dogs and cats in their senior meals programs. Dog food and cat food is donated to FIDO, and stored in a central location, where volunteers package the food into two-week portions for delivery to each senior center. AniMeals then are delivered bi-weekly to homes by Meals on Wheels drivers.

As for FIDO, it was founded in Clackamas County 10 years ago, but has stayed largely off the radar of Wilsonville residents, Catto said.

“FIDO is kind of the red-headed stepchild,” she said with a laugh. “We’re so far out that Wilsonville hasn’t gotten a lot of attention.”

Catto got involved three years ago after a friend asked her to attend a board meeting. Volunteer activities came first, then board membership. Now, she’s not quite sure how it happened, but she’s president of a group with more than 40 volunteers across the county serving community centers in 12 communities.

Last year, FIDO took in more than 70,000 pounds of dry dog food and more than 15,000 pounds of dry cat food in donations. Thousands of cans of wet food accompanied that total, along with 1,500 bags of dog treats, 300 bags of cat treats and nearly 600 pounds of litter. Yet, need continues to outstrip demand, Catto said.

In the AniMeals program alone last year, FIDO distributed almost 37,000 pounds of pet food and served more than 100 families a month through the dog food bank in Oregon City.

Brescia said she is glad the Wilsonville Community Center has joined the cause through AniMeals.

“It’s a little bit of a reminder to us that people are making decisions between one thing or another,” she said. “And that’s why FIDO is wonderful. They don’t want to give up the special friend they have, and to take that burden off them is wonderful. I think we have so many animal lovers we won’t have trouble getting donations in the barrel.”