Volunteers work together to load pet food into vehicle trunks during a drive-thru pet food bank hosted by SPCA for Monterey County earlier this year in Greenfield. (Sean Roney/Staff)

SALINAS VALLEY — Local pets have been impacted alongside their human families as the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic causes an increased need for food assistance.

The SPCA for Monterey County has been hosting off-site pet food banks monthly since June, with Greenfield having served as the South Monterey County location through December. These are in addition to the weekly pet food banks hosted at the SPCA’s shelter location outside Salinas on Highway 68.

“The need is great everywhere,” said Beth Brookhouser, vice president of marketing and communications for SPCA for Monterey County. “We know how appreciated this help is in South County.”

According to Brookhouser, the need in Monterey County seems to be growing.

While Brookhouser noted it is difficult to determine whether more people are hearing about the pet food banks or if the need is truly increasing, the food banks are experiencing larger turnout.

“Our Greenfield event last month was our biggest event yet,” she said. “And, we also held one in Seaside that same month and that was also the largest distribution that we have done.”

Each of those November distributions provided support to more than 500 animals.

A pet food bank was also held Dec. 5 in Greenfield, but the final attendance numbers were not yet available.

The SPCA rotates off-site food banks to serve North Monterey County, South Monterey County and Monterey Peninsula, since the shelter is located so close to Salinas itself. Greenfield has served through December as the main South Monterey County site because of its southern geographical distance in the county.

“We are hoping to do more rotating,” Brookhouser said. “In January, we are scheduling one at Soledad High School.”

The Soledad pet food bank is scheduled to take place Jan. 16.

Prior setups for pet food banks at SPCA were to hold self-serve events where people could drop off donations and those in need could come by to pick up what they needed. During those times, the shelter would give out an estimated 5,000 pounds of pet food per year.

“When the pandemic hit, everything changed,” Brookhouser said. “We saw the need grow significantly. We began staffing our pet food bank at the SPCA and having it be a drive-thru event twice a week.”

The shift toward serving the increased need meant hosting pet food banks around the county.

“Not everybody is able to get to our shelter, so we started looking at locations throughout the community that we could go to,” Brookhouser said. “In June, that’s when we started the distributions outside of our shelter. We’ve been doing two a month every month since then.”

The off-site food bank only had to be canceled once due to the wildfires in Monterey County. The pandemic pet food bank handouts have already totaled more than 60,000 pounds of pet food. For those wondering what animals can receive help, Brookhouser explained it could be any pet.

“We are here for all types of animals,” she said. “We try to bring food for almost every type of animal we can to these events. Whatever we can do to keep pets with their families where they belong when they’re needed most.”

She said SPCA has handed out food for such animals as horses, chickens, turtles, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, lizards and fish.

In addition to the food banks, SPCA continues operations for their low cost spay and neuter clinic. There is a flat rate for dogs and another for cats, which doesn’t change no matter the pet’s gender or size.

“We also do a lot of humane education for children,” Brookhouser said. “We are in quite a few schools remotely right now. Our humane education department is doing a lot of free programs for kids to keep them engaged and teach them about humane treatment of animals.”

On the donations end, Brookhouser said SPCA is always seeking donations, especially during the pandemic for the food bank.

“The food that is being donated is not keeping up with the need,” she said. “We are currently purchasing food at a very low cost, but we are having to purchase the food.”

Donations can be made to the SPCA in the form of cash, by contributions to the group’s Amazon wish list or by food purchased from one’s favorite food retailer.

“We want people to know we are here for them and all animals,” Brookhouser said. “Just because a food bank takes place in Greenfield or Soledad, you don’t have to live in either of those places. We’re here for the community whenever they need us. The need is great right now and we’re thankful to our donors for letting us fill this big need.”

For information about upcoming pet food banks, visit spcamc.org/pfb (English) or spcamc.org/comida (Spanish).

The SPCA’s shelter site pet food banks take place every Wednesday and Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m. Those arriving are asked to be ready to have two weeks of food loaded into their vehicle by SPCA team members.

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Sean Roney is a freelance reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.


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