Vet students hold pet food drive

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When Kane McDermott first saw Bunny, she was in pretty bad shape.


Starved and ragged, the dog was running around in the street aimlessly looking for a companion. He and his roommates decided to take her home.


“We hung up posters all over the neighborhood … and no one ever got back to us,” he said.


Situations such as this are becoming more common as owners abandon their pets, oftentimes due to financial strain.


The University of Minnesota Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association aims to combat the problem of animal abandonment this week by holding a pet food drive on the St. Paul campus Monday through Friday.


“A lot of people have to choose between keeping their homes or keeping their pets,” said Jen Gallus , a second year College of Veterinary Medicine student and president-elect of SCAVMA.


The food drive is part of a larger effort called the The Pet Project , which was started in July by Kim Carrier , a local stylist working in the Seward neighborhood. The program aims to provide pet food to those who can’t afford it.


Although there are many food shelves around the metro area, Carrier said, there are none that cater to animals and their owners, which is what motivated her to start the program.


Now each week, about 6,000 pounds of pet food are delivered to various food shelves, in large part due to the program, she said.


Before The Pet Project, local food shelves rarely received pet food donations although many struggling families have pets, said Cathy Maes , the executive director for ICA Food Shelf in Minnetonka.


Carrier, who delivers the food The Pet Project collects to the food banks, has found that pet food is in high demand. It is usually gone within the first few days, if not within 24 hours, she said.


“People will say if you can’t afford a pet, you shouldn’t have one,” Carrier said, “but pets live a long time. When people buy a pet they can’t always predict when hard times will hit.”


Donations of both food and money are down quite a bit, said Suzanne Juberian , owner of Animal Angels Rescue in Bloomington .


Pet adoptions are also in decline, she said. Over the last six months, only about 70 pets have been adopted from the rescue, whereas usually in a six month period, adoptions average around 150.


“People often can’t afford to take care of their pets because of foreclosures or because they have to move to an apartment where pets aren’t allowed,” Juberian said.


The average pet owner spends between $1,200 and $1,500 on their dog or cat each year, including up to $217 just for food, according to a 2008 study done by the American Pet Products Association.


“Pets are our family,” Maes said. “You wouldn’t give up your child or brother or sister.”