In the education room at Farmhouse Animal and Nature Sanctuary, a collection of pet food, supplies and toys has begun to grow.
As more donations come in, Lisa Burns, who runs the animal nonprofit with her husband David, adds to the collection.
Farmhouse Animal and Nature Sanctuary started a new Pet Food Bank to support low-income families or families going through financial hardships in Myakka City, Duette, Parrish and Wauchula.
Lisa Burns hopes the pet food bank will help families keep their pets rather than surrendering them to nonprofits like Farmhouse Animal and Nature Sanctuary.
She said the animal nonprofits and shelters in Manatee and Sarasota counties have reached capacity at times and can not continue to take in so many animals.
“The number of animals in the shelters are higher than ever,” Burns said. “Most of the ones around here don’t even have intake. … There are waiting lists. One way we thought we can help people keep their pets at home is by offering food and supplies to help offset costs.”
Burns said the sanctuary receives about a dozen calls per week from people who need to surrender their animals, and the nonprofit has to turn people away because it doesn’t have the space.
Farmhouse Animal and Nature Sanctuary is caring for 141 animals as of May 23. The nonprofit has rabbits, guinea pigs and potbelly pigs available for adoption.
Burns said they decided to start the Pet Food Bank after the Giving Alliance of Myakka City closed in December. She said one of the biggest needs in the community was for pet food.
“You shouldn’t have to choose between feeding your kids and feeding your animals,” she said. “You should be able to do both. It’s sad that people can’t make ends meet to be able to do that."
Burns started working with Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue, Waste to Charity and Greater Good, which will provide donations to the pet food bank. Leo & Lucky’s in Parrish and Farmhouse Animal and Nature Sanctuary will serve as a donation sites.
Besides food, the nonprofit also will accept donations of toys, supplies, kitty litter, bird seed, bedding and more.
Once per month, registered families will be able to go to the sanctuary to pick up supplemental pet food and supplies. It will be by appointment only.
Burns said registrants will self-certify that they are low-income or experiencing financial hardship.
Although cat and dog food is needed, Burns said it’s important to remember many families have alternative pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, prairie dogs, bearded dragons and more. The pet food bank is looking for donations for those animals as well.
Liz Ramos covers education and community for East County. Before moving to Florida, Liz was an education reporter for the Lynchburg News & Advance in Virginia for two years after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism.