A charitable donation will help needy homebound seniors in Kane and McHenry counties give their pets something to eat.
The Salvation Army Golden Diners program has received $2,500 from Banfield Charitable Trust, and is using it to deliver pet food to 111 seniors this week. The food will feed 187 pets, including cats, dogs, rabbits and birds.
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Golden Diners hopes to then deliver pet food quarterly, said Maj. Ken Nicolai.
It began when some volunteer meal-deliverers reported they had been in homes where the clients had pets. In particular, one volunteer reported seeing a client break a piece of chicken in half and start feeding it to an eager, obviously very malnourished cat.
"I haven't had a chance to get cat food," the client said apologetically to the volunteer.
Golden Diners then surveyed its clients about whether they had pets, and whether the pets had adequate food and medical care. It started delivering pet food, donated from area Banfield Pet Hospitals, once a year.
The organization then applied for the grant in January, Nicolai said.
Nicolai acknowledges it could be argued that people who can't afford or acquire food for themselves should not have pets. But pets help Golden Diners' clients, he said.
"These seniors live all by themselves, and their pet companion is all they have," he said. Having a pet, including the responsibility of caring for it, keeps the client alert, he said. "Otherwise they are just sitting alone all day long," Nicolai said.
He noted that sometimes the client has had the pet for many years, perhaps from before a spouse died. "It would be a lot to ask them to give up their pet too," he said.
Banfield Charitable Trust's mission is to keep animals from becoming homeless. Enabling these seniors to keep their pets reduces the number of animals turned in to shelters, or abandoned.
Nicolai stressed that no money from the government, or from donations for the human-food program, is used for the pet program. Volunteers deliver the pet food.
In 2012, Banfield helped support a pet-food program for the DuPage Senior Citizens Council. It also works with the national Meals on Wheels Association.