Posted February 11, 2020 at 08:21 PM Under "Community Outreach"
Distributing supplies to low income pet owners

We used to distribute pet supplies (leashes, jackets, toys, collars, etc.) at our pet food bank once a week. But we had to stop our food bank and still have a ton of supplies to distribute. That's great, but we already had a problem with people taking the items we handed out for free and selling them on their own. The most efficient way to hand out the supplies would be to have an event of some kind where we distribute it. But we still risk people taking items for free and selling them. Any suggestions? How do you prevent this type of thing in your area? The people we serve are often homeless and living in tents or are barely making ends meet. I can't blame them for looking for new ways to make ends meet. Obviously, we'd like these resources to get to those kind pet owners who need them. Thank you!

  • February 12, 2020 at 12:40 PM
    Best Answer

    My reply is from a very different vein, since this was something people had worried over at our own food/supply pantry! What I asked volunteers who were concerned was: Why is it a problem if people end up selling the items? What negative impact does it have? Who does it harm?

    For us, all the items we stock in our pantry are donated items that the shelter can't use. We already have them, and if we don't find someone else who can use them, they are headed for a landfill. If the secondhand non-adjustable dog harness goes to a pantry visitor who sells it to his neighbor for $5, is that impacting someone negatively? If the neighbor couldn't afford that harness, we probably will get another donated soon that we'll give away for free.

    For us, we have the additional factor that much of our county is rural, so access to pet supplies (and even our programs) is limited by people's ability to travel. If someone takes ten leashes and gives them to their friends who don't drive, that's probably ultimately a benefit to us. (After all, that same person who didn't have a leash and a car is going to have a hard time getting to the other side of the county to pick up their stray dog.)

    Obviously, this approach might not work if you are soliciting funding/supplies specifically for the program, but from the sound of your post, these are leftover items in need of a home. If they go through one more set of hands before going into use, is that worse than continuing to hang onto and store them?

    If you really want to distribute them for the use of a particular pet, I think giving them to the owner at a time that they have the pet with them is the most successful option. Does your local Health Department host any free Rabies vaccine clinics that you can tag along with? Or is there a low-cost S/N program where you can table and hand out supplies?

    Just my two cents from a different viewpoint!

    • February 12, 2020 at 04:32 PM

      For the items I have that are hand-me-downs, I agree with you completely and hear that point of view often. But it's the brand new items from Petsmart or other pet stores that donate them that I'm most concerned about. They can make a fairly good living taking things from one place for free and selling them elsewhere. They sell items at roadside "swap meets." It's a way of life for many people here, which is sad. There is one low-cost S/N van that may let us do that and I'll definitely look into it. Thank you!

  • February 12, 2020 at 08:48 AM

    A friend of mine runs a foster-based rescue that also distributes dog food to the rather sizable homeless population in the area. The way she handles it is that a trusted couple of members of that community take the food and deliver it to others who need it. It seems to work well. Maybe if you reach out to a social program in your community that is helping humans, they could advise you on the best way to reach the low-income and homeless pet owners in need.

    • February 12, 2020 at 04:26 PM

      I like partnering with trusted members of the community to handle the distribution! We have been partnering with community groups and that's where the items were being taken from and sold.

    • February 12, 2020 at 11:09 AM

      What a good idea Erika. You made me think of churches who have food pantries and other programs to help the homeless. Food pantries are sometimes familiar with the people who come in and what their needs are. These items could be distributed through a food pantry, possibly.

  • February 12, 2020 at 07:01 AM

    Unfortunately, I can't think of a way to stop the items from being sold.

    Are there other organizations in your area that help the homeless and those trying to make ends meet that you could team up with? Maybe they could set up a table near you when you are distributing pet items, and they could reach out/hand out literature and information for resources that are available to help.

    • February 12, 2020 at 04:23 PM

      We were set up next to a church that would hand out food to people and we handed out food and supplies to pet owners. That's where the items were being taken from and then sold.