Colorado Pet Pantry has 60 monthly pet food sites across the state to help pet owners access food and supplies. Executive Director Eileen Lambert said the organization's mission is even more essential as people's economic situations shift due to the new coronavirus pandemic.
"Having a pet food bank is an easy solution to helping people to have enough resources to keep their pet, especially if what they're going through is temporary," said Lambert. "Veterinary costs and housing costs strongly impact people's ability to keep their animals, but helping them with pet food actually helps offset those costs."
She said she saw an increase in need starting a few months ago, and anticipates it will continue to increase heading into the summer as people miss paychecks and are out of work.
In March, Lambert said the organization helped 400 animals in Colorado Springs. They also launched a new partnership with Harley's Hope Foundation in Colorado Springs to provide delivery of pet food and litter.
"The delivery service is so important during COVID-19, because it's really helping people feel safe and still get the food that they need," said Lambert. "It's such an important addition to our program."
Harley's Hope Foundation started ten years ago in Colorado Springs to help people and their pets navigate challenging situations.
Cynthia Bullock is the executive director of the organization. She said they started providing contact-free pet food and litter delivery to older pet owners and high-risk populations at the beginning of April. Bullock said delivering these supplies helps pets along with their owners.
"The human-animal bond is profound and it has very positive benefits having a pet in the home, especially for seniors," said Bullock. "If you're a senior and all of a sudden your animal's in danger of losing their life because you can't feed them or you can't afford veterinary care, you're now looking at some very negative health effects."
Since the beginning of April, she said the organization has delivered over 3,400 pounds of supplies to people and their pets in El Paso, Teller and Pueblo counties. The organization plans to continue delivering supplies through the fall.
Bullock also said the organization is considering making deliveries a permanent part of their services, albeit on a smaller scale, for elderly pet owners in the community.
For Lambert and the Colorado Pet Pantry, the pandemic has revealed the importance of expanded services for the entire state.
"There's always need, but right now there's even more need," said Lambert. "There's a lot of folks who normally wouldn't be in need, but now they are because they've missed some paychecks. So we're accelerating all our plans but trying not to bite off more than we can chew."
Lambert said the virus has sped up their plans for the future of the organization. She said the pantry is looking to expand services and open locations in Colorado's Western Slope in the near future.