Tuolumne County Animal Control launches food bank for pets

Union Democrat article by Alex Maclean

Tuolumne County Animal Control has started a food bank for pets in response to a growing need within the community.

Christina Whitcomb, who works for Animal Control as a registered veterinary technician, said she proposed the idea after seeing more people coming into the agency’s shelter in Jamestown over the past year seeking food for their pets.

“When I first started here, which was about three years ago, I never saw anybody come in and ask for animal food,” she said. “Now, we probably get people coming in on a weekly basis for the past year.”

Whitcomb said some of those who have come to the shelter in need of food for their pets were homeless, while others had just fallen on hard times.

However, the fact that they came to the shelter asking for help showed Whitcomb they cared about the well-being of their animals.

“I commend them for doing that because it shows they care,” she said. “I’ve always wanted people to do that. If they can’t afford something, animal control is here to help.

People who work for Animal Control were previously using their own money to purchase dog and cat food that they could give to the pet owners who came to them asking for help.

Whitcomb got permission from her supervisors, Animal Control Manager Mike Mazouch and Agricultural Commissioner Kelle Schroeder, to begin seeking donations through Facebook a few weeks ago.

“We’re budgeted to feed animals in our shelter, but not a program like this, so I started promoting it through Facebook and people started bringing us food,” she said.

People in the community have dropped off about 100 pounds of animal food over the past several weeks since Whitcomb put out the call for donations, according to her estimates.

Tractor Supply Co., which has a store in East Sonora, also recently donated an entire pallet that Whitcomb estimated was about 500 pounds of animal food.

“Tuolumne County has an amazing community because they step up when people need help,” Whitcomb said.

The agency will give away free dog and cat food on a first come, first serve basis at its first food bank day on Wednesday. (See box for more details.)

Whitcomb said they are planning to create a regular schedule for food bank days after seeing how the first one goes and how many people show up, because there’s nothing else like it in the county.

“We have ATCAA food banks, but nothing for animals,” she said. “We wanted to show people that Animal Control isn’t just laws and regulations. We really do care and want animals to be taken care of and not be hungry.”

People who are interested in donating can also drop off food at the shelter.

Whitcomb said dry food is ideal, but canned food that’s not expired is also accepted for dogs and cats with dental issues or no teeth at all. Canned food with a pop top is preferred for people who don’t have access to a can opener.

The agency also recommends donating food that’s certified by the Association of American Feed Officials, or AAFCO, which established nutritional requirements for pet food. Whitcomb said it will say on the packaging whether it’s AAFCO certified.

It’s important for domesticated animals to get the proper type of pet food because they can encounter health problems from eating food that’s high in fat, Whitcomb said.

“Our animals aren’t wolves anymore, we’ve domesticated them and changed the way they digest things,” she said. “You can’t just feed them scraps from your hands.”

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.

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