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Free pet food pantry in Indianapolis helps hundreds of families

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — While the country is debating whether to begin allowing food stamps to cover pet food, one Indianapolis charity already has a solution in place: a pet food pantry.

Friends of Indianapolis Dogs Outside (FIDO) has held a free dog and cat food pantry for eight years, but, with utility bills on the rise this winter, they’re seeing hundreds of families asking for help.

“It’s pretty massive quantities and it’s a big, fast-paced operation on each of these pet food pantry days,” said Darcie Kurtz, executive director for FIDO. “It’s temporary help for people who are going through really rough times and it helps keep those animals in the home and out of the shelter.”

FIDO opens the pantry from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the first Saturday of every month, and Kurtz said they’ll distribute 9,000 pounds of dog and cat food to 300 households in Indianapolis.

“Through the years we’ve had an impact on hundreds of dogs and the people who care for them,” said Melissa Pritchett, FIDO volunteer coordinator, “making their lives easier, making their dogs lives better.”

Just like with a human food pantry, there are a few rules. Kurtz said someone looking to pick up pet food must bring a photo ID, proof that their pet has been spayed or neutered, and a document proving financial need on behalf of the family. They ask that you don’t bring your pets to the warehouse.

“They find a way to get here even though their car is barely running but they find a way to get here because they rely on this and they want to make sure they can take care of their pets,” she said.

If your pet isn’t spayed or neutered, FIDO helps with that, too. They also donate bedding and provide flea treatments if someone is struggling to keep their pet indoors in the winter.

The warehouse is filled with pet food thanks to donations through partners like Kroger and Gleaner’s Food Bank. Kurtz said often it’s food in ripped bags or with a labeling error that stores can’t sell.

“It’s massive amount of food that we’re able to save from the landfill and get it out to citizens in our community,” she said.

The handout isn’t meant to be long-term or all the food a pet needs in a month. Kurtz said it’s meant to be a temporary fix to supplement the rest of the pet’s diet.

As for the food stamps for pet food push, Kurtz said that kind of program would need to be coupled with a spay and neuter requirement to keep animal populations in check. In the meantime, she said, Hoosiers are welcome to use FIDO’s services.

If you’re interested in volunteering, find more information here.

The FIDO pet food pantry is at 1505 N. Sherman Drive on Indianapolis’s east side.