Pet care during COVID-19: more dogs loose, pet food pantry activated

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Utahns are under increasing pressure to provide for their family members, including the four-legged, furry ones.

Carlee Atkinson has three cats and admits she’s under a lot of pressure to provide food for them. “I clean offices and seniors’ apartments for work and now been without work for three weeks,” she said. “Times are hard.”

Sgt. Spencer Cannon of the Utah County Sheriff’s Office said police have seen a growing number of reports of dogs on the loose since the pandemic began. The only way the Sheriff’s Office keeps track of the number of loose dogs is by the number of calls to their office reporting dogs without owners.

“It does seem unusual that this increase would coincide with people being out of work and people being stuck at home and maybe not having income right now,” Cannon said.

Neither of the two animal shelters in Utah County is accepting owner-surrendered animals at this time. Does that mean some families are having to let their pets fend for themselves?

That’s a concern among local animal advocates. This week, a pop-up pet pantry began touring Utah, handing out free pet food to animal owners in need.

A Nuzzles & Co.van that’s being used as a mobile pet pantry. The company is providing food and pet litter for those in need. (Nuzzles & Co Facebook)

Nuzzles & Co. of Summit County is an animal shelter that opened their mobile pet pantry after receiving the combined sponsorship of Petco and the Jason Heigl Foundation. The van, loaded with dog and cat food and even kitty litter, visited parking lots in Salt Lake County this week, and has plans to travel to Davis, Weber, Utah and Summit counties in the future.

The company said the free food is intended for people who have been laid-off or had their hours cut due to COVID-19.

One of the dogs whose owner received assistance at the drive-through pet pantry licks his chops. (Nuzzles & Co. Facebook)

But not even the company itself is exempt from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ivy Gold has been an employee of Nuzzles & Co. for the last few months.

“I’m currently on furlough, because we are a non-profit shelter, and can’t afford the full staff working right now,” Gold said.

However, the animals are being taken care of, according to Gold. “I know that almost all the dogs and cats are being fostered during the pandemic, which is amazing,” she said. “The community really stepped up.”

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