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How to Start a Pet Food Bank

Updated: Feb 16, 2021

Sometimes an animal's owner can experience unexpected job loss making it difficult for them to afford necessities like pet food for their pets.

This happens a lot in low-income communities.

It's not uncommon for owners to attempt to surrender their pets simply because due to hard times, they're unable to feed them.

If any of these animals were to be surrendered to a kill shelter then it's possible that they may one day be euthanized due to an animal shelter's lack of resources.

But think about it - did these pets really need to be surrendered to the care of an animal shelter or animal rescue? No right? After all, they already had a home. They just needed food temporarily until their owners could afford to begin purchasing it again.

In these instances, a pet food bank could have kept these animals in their homes and out of care.

In the case of an animal being surrendered to a kill shelter, a pet food bank literally has the power to save lives!

Here's how pet food banks help pets stay in loving homes.

A pet food bank is a program generally organized by a non-profit or charitable organization for the purpose of distributing pet foods and supplies to companion animals in need to avoid hunger and homelessness.

Pet food banks can be accessed by pet owners who are experiencing financial difficulties.

Pet food banks can help keep animals in their forever homes.

Pet food banks are used by people experiencing temporary financial difficulties to help ease the financial strain of pet ownership.

If an animal is already in a safe home with an owner who's just going through a difficult time temporarily then why not help the animal stay in that home?

In these instances, pet food banks keep animals out of animal rescues and in their forever homes.

Pet food banks can prevent animals from beings exposed to infections and diseases.

One of the best things about an animal already being in their forever homes is that they're not in the care of animal shelters.

After all, animals don't belong in animal shelters. They belong in homes.

Animals in their forever homes are far less likely to be exposed to infections and diseases than animals in animal shelters are.

Animals are also less likely to be euthanized due to lack of resources in their forever homes than they would in animal shelters.

That's why our goal is to keep animals in their forever homes by any means possible - as long as their forever homes are safe.

Data collected from pet owners at intake tells us that a lot of pet owners rehome their pets because they’re simply unable to afford the cost of their food.

Pet food banks have the power to keep animals out of animal shelters and in their forever homes. That's a powerful thing.

Here’s an example of a pet food bank in Ontario that’s helping keep animals in their forever homes.

Here’s an example of a pet food bank in the UK that’s helping keep animals in their forever homes.

See a pattern? Animals are in need all over the world and pet food banks are an important part of helping those animals out.

Pet food banks can save your animal shelter or animal rescue money.

There is a heavy cost associated with an animal staying in an animal shelter or animal rescue.

There's the cost associated with meeting the animal's basic needs but there's also the cost associated with providing the animal with veterinary care.

If it came down to caring for an animal for 30 days vs purchasing and providing pet food to the animal's owner - which one do you think is cheaper?

That decision should be an easy one.

Pet food banks give your animal rescue the opportunity to educate pet owners.

Pet owners will come into contact with your animal rescue's volunteers at your animal rescue's pet food bank.

This is the perfect opportunity for your team to educate pet owners in your community on pet nutrition.

There's a lot of other information that your animal rescue's volunteers can also share with pet owners at your pet food bank.

Pet owners who are struggling to provide food for their pets may also be struggling to fund other aspects of their animal's care like veterinary care.

Since the pet owners are already in front of you, this is a great opportunity to provide them with the tools they need to care for all of their animal's needs.

Here's how to start a pet food bank?

Operating a pet food bank will require a lot of planning but you can definitely do it.

The first thing your animal rescue needs to do is grab a paper and pen because you're going to have to figure out a lot of the logistics.

Here are just a few.

Who will be eligible to use your animal rescue's pet food bank?

Any member of your community with a pet should be able to access your animal rescue's pet food bank.

It's very important for your animal rescue to not create any unnecessary barriers that will prevent pet owners in your community from accessing your animal rescue's pet food bank.

ID is a great example of a simple barrier that can make it difficult for some community members to access your pet food bank.

Although it may be easy for the average person to produce ID, it may not be as easy for a person who is homeless.

You'll want to make accessing your pet food bank as barrier-free as possible.

Another instance you'll want to consider is whether your animal rescue will allow colony caretakers to use your pet food bank.

Colony caretakers will require a significant amount of pet food in comparison to pet owners in your community but colony caretakers are an important part of reducing your community's stray pet population.

If you decide to share some of the resources in your pet food bank with colony caretakers then your pet food bank will be helping to provide food to homeless animals in need.

This is commendable but you'll need to have a lot more pet food on hand to handle the increase in the volume of food you're going to need.

Where will your animal rescue find the pet food for your pet food bank?

Pet food banks are similar to human food banks.

Human food banks have food drives, don't they? Your pet food bank can have community food drives too.

You can encourage community members to make donations to your animal rescue's designated donation boxes located at designated locations.

You'll want these designated locations to be in busy places where it's easy for people to donate like pet stores, grocery stores or other places that encourage giving like your local church.

You can also approach businesses directly to ask if they'd be interested in helping to fund your pet food bank.

These businesses can fund your pet food bank by donating animal care supplies or even by making financial donations.

Here's a list of places that will likely be interested in donating food to your pet food banks:

  • Pet stores

  • Pet food companies

  • Pet boarding facilities

  • Groomers

  • Veterinary clinics

Keeping a steady stream of food available is usually the biggest challenge in running a pet food bank but once you make it past this hurdle you can focus on some of the other aspects of running your pet food bank.

What other items will you make available at your animal rescue's pet food bank?

Companion animals have a lot of needs outside of just food and water.

A dog might need a new dog leash, a collar or a toy. A cat might need a litter box or some litter. A small domestic animal like a rabbit, a guinea pig or rat may need harnesses, chew toys or hide boxes.

Since each of these items are necessary to ensure the animal's well being, you'll want to make some of these supplies available as well.

Where will your animal rescue establish your pet food bank?

A lot of animal rescues do not have physical locations. Luckily, you won't need a physical location.

Instead, what you'll want to do is find a busy location where people who are struggling financially will be able to access your food bank.

It would be a great idea to have your pet food bank located alongside an already existing human food bank.

You can easily go on Google to google food banks in your community.

You'll want to set up a business meeting with the other organization's Board of Directors.

It's important to have detailed information on all of the logistics behind how your pet food bank will work before setting up the meeting.

If you have a solid enough plan outlining all of the logistics behind your pet food bank then you may even be ready to approach pet food brands!

Here’s an example of a crucial pet food bank that receives assistance directly from Royal Canin a popular pet food brand.

Your animal rescue will need to fundraise some money!

Your pet food bank will cost your animal rescue money.

There will be a cost associated with creating designated donation boxes. There will also be a cost associated with printing the marketing materials needed to promote your pet food bank. There will be another cost associated with repackaging pet food.

You'll also need to make bags available so that pet owners can carry their pet food and other animal care items home.

Your animal rescue will also need to make a detailed list of the costs associated with your pet food bank. That way you are not surprised when expenses arise.

It would also be a great idea to fundraise the funds needed to cover the first year of your pet food bank.

You'll need to spread the word about your pet food bank.

You'll also want to be sure to tell all of your animal rescue's workers, volunteers, foster parents and recent adopters about your pet food bank!

They may not need your service but they may tell other community members who do.

You'll also want to spread the word to other members in your community.

That means you'll need a marketing plan. This marketing plan should be created by someone who knows how to create a marketing plan. Someone with professional experience.

You'll also need to create marketing materials like:

  • flyers

  • posters

  • brochures

You can also market your pet food bank on your animal rescue's social media pages.

You can even ask other animal rescues in your community who may not have their own pet food banks to refer community members in need of your rescue's food bank.

You can market your pet food bank at a variety of locations like:

  • Local churches

  • Local animal shelters

  • Local community centres

  • Local establishments dedicated to helping companion animals

One of the best places to advertise your pet food bank will be at the people food banks.

People who are going through hard times often use the human food bank and some of them may also have hungry pets at home.

What data will you gather from community members who use your animal rescue's pet food bank?

It is important for your animal rescue to collect data from the community members who use your pet food bank.

You can start by collecting the community member's personal information like their name, telephone number and address.

You'll need a form for this.

Your foodbank form will need to ask community members what neighbourhood they live in as well as how many pets they have at home. You'll probably want to also know their pets' ages and species.

You'll need to know how many people live in their homes and what their households average monthly income is.

This information will help your animal rescue's policymakers create policies to better serve the people and animals in your community.

This will, in turn, allow your animal rescue to save more animals!


Creating your animal rescue's pet food bank will be difficult but you can do it.

Plus we know that the impact of your animal rescue's pet food bank will make all of your effort worth it.

Your community's pet food bank will give your organization the opportunity to:

  • Help animals in need

  • Educate your community's pet owners

  • Collect data on your community's pet owners

  • Manage your animal rescue's intake department

Your intake team is probably the best team to take charge of your animal rescue's pet food bank seeing as they're most likely to come into contact with pet owners in your community who are in need of additional support.

Your intake team would probably be more than happy to take part in an initiative to reduce the number of animals being admitted into your animal shelter or animal rescue's care.

Remember they signed on to make a difference in the lives of animals in your community!

Your pet food bank may also improve their level of satisfaction with their role in your organization.

You can follow Rescue Corner for more information on how to help low-income pet owners in your animal rescue's community. #letssaveanimals

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