Lynn Serri has seen too many animals surrendered to a shelter because their owners no longer can afford to feed them.
The former volunteer for the county dog pound already had been helping multiple families by sharing her dogs’ food with them, but she was in search of a solution that could help pet owners across Stark County.
“It’s not the animal’s fault,” Serri said. “They shouldn’t be hungry.”
While she found some organizations and churches offered help on a limited scale, the closest pet food pantry was in Portage County. Serri, who owns four pitbulls, decided to start one herself.
Serri joined forces with two other animal lovers, Christa O’Neill of Sandy Township and Julie Mills, a Marlboro Township native who now lives in Columbus, and created the Stark County Pet Food Pantry. The nonprofit organization’s mission is to help pets stay with their families by providing pet food and supplies to those in need. The pantry is located inside AlterClinic Animal Care at 2302 Fulton Road NW in Canton.
The pantry opened in November and distributed about 600 pounds of food in its first month. Among the pet owners helped were older residents who ran out of money before they received their next Social Security check, owners who recently were laid off, a woman who was diagnosed with cancer and owners who had rescued an animal not knowing the pet was pregnant.
“There’s such a need,” said Serri, the pantry’s executive director. “We’re averaging 50 to 80 families a week, and most of the families own multiple pets.”
The pantry is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays and 5 to 7 p.m. Thursdays, but appointments are required.
To seek assistance, pet owners must complete an application that is available on the pantry’s website at starkcountypetfoodpantry.org. A photo ID is required to prove residency, and proof of financial hardship may be requested. Owners also will need to provide verification that their pet has been spayed or neutered or will be asked to schedule the procedure for their pet before receiving future help.
The pantry offers food for dogs and cats, as well as hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, ferrets, birds and fish. Depending on the donations received, it also will stock cat litter, treats, animal bedding and other accessories such as collars, leashes and toys. The pantry does not disperse medication.
The goal is to give each family enough pet food to last for a month, but often the pantry’s supply can’t meet the demand.
The pantry is continually seeking donations of food and money. It is hosting a pasta fundraiser from 3 to 7 p.m. May 2 at Simpson United Methodist Church at 4900 Middlebranch Avenue NE in Plain Township.
Among the most needed items are dog food (preferably in 15- to 20-pound bags), cat litter, dry cat food and monetary donations to allow them to restock items that run out. The pantry’s wish list also can be found on Amazon.
Donations are accepted at AlterClinic and the following drop-off locations: PBS Animal Health, Pet Supplies Plus in Perry Township, Stark County Veterinary Emergency Clinic, Healing Waters Canine Experience, Carbone Insurance Services, Bargain Barn, Hills and Dales Dairy Queen, North Canton Public Library, Booney & Pooch, BowWow Bungalow and Primary Care Physician Associates.
For more information, visit starkcountypetfoodpantry.org.