As we enter the second year of COVID-19, many Americans are still struggling with the basics – paying the rent, keeping the lights on and putting food on the table. That impacts our pets too, given that 60% of U.S. households are pet owners.
Experts say our pets make us feel better, reduce stress and help us cope with COVID-19. But pet owners are also experiencing increased anxiety about caring for pets during the pandemic, especially as millions are still without jobs or pre-pandemic wages. The cost of feeding one dog can range from $250 to $700 a year.
In response, United Way and our partners are launching the Pets Eat Too (PET) pilot program. It brings together local 211 and United Way teams, DoorDash delivery services and the philanthropic support of PetSmart Charities to ensure that pet owners can keep their pets healthy during these tough times. 211 is a vital service leveraged by 14 million people across North America, connecting them to local resources.
The new PET pilot will provide more than 3,600 deliveries in four communities, helping pet owners keep their pets healthy and safe. In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the PET pilot launched in April. Already, 100 families have pre-registered for pet food delivery. One pet owner scheduled for delivery commented on Facebook: "Thank you very much for helping us out in struggling times."
The pilot is part of Ride United: Last Mile Delivery, a partnership with DoorDash that’s serving more than 250 communities across the U.S., providing delivery of food and essential items from local food banks, food pantries, and other distribution points to senior citizens, low-income families, and those who can’t leave home. Since April 2020, this effort has supplied more than 300,000 deliveries—an estimated 4 million meals—reaching over 37,000 households with food pantry boxes, meals and other essential items.
As the pandemic continues, 211 call centers and United Way community impact programs are playing a key role in bringing essential services to those hardest hit. Even now, 211 call centers are fielding up to five times the normal call volumes. Food (including pet food) continues to be among the top three problems callers cite.
“DoorDash is proud to partner with United Way, 211, and PetSmart Charities to power pet food deliveries to pet owners so they can keep their furry friends healthy and safe during a tough time for millions of people. Thanks to our partnerships like these, Project DASH has helped deliver food, supplies, and other essential items and to help nonprofit organizations better reach and support their communities through last mile delivery ,” said Brittany Graunke, who leads nonprofit and government delivery partnerships for DoorDash Drive.
The PET program embodies the spirit of innovation, helping the team build out key learnings on engaging pet focused organizations, developing essential logistics guidelines and identifying and reaching pet owners. Through support from PetSmart Charities, the project will also work with local 211 teams to identify and add veterinary resources in their existing 211 resource databases and identify best practices to integrate animal services support into 211 outreach and referrals.
“At PetSmart Charities, we believe that helping pets in need means being there for the people who love them. That’s why we’re committed to partnering with organizations who provide pet food and supplies alongside other basic resources to support the family,” says Aimee Gilbreath, President of PetSmart Charities, adding, ”Ride United and the PET program do this in incredible ways, and we proudly support the work being done to reach pet parents during times of transition and need.”
Get Help: If you or someone you know is in need, call, text or chat 211 to get connected.
Give Help: If you would like to support Ride United, click here to donate.