Heeling Animal Hunger

The Center for Healing has started its second annual pet food drive to help keep pets at home and not in shelters.

The second annual pet food drive hosted by Center for Heeling is taking place now until Dec. 31 in hopes to “keep pets at home and out of shelters,” according to the Center for Heeling’s website.

Last year, 1,500 pounds of food were collected and donated to local food pantries across Ulster County.

Susan Gleeson, owner of Center for Heeling and founder of the pet drive, has worked with dogs her whole life. Gleeson worked in veterinary hospitals across the Hudson Valley before starting Center for Heeling, a place where owners and dogs are encouraged “to build a strong bond, and healthy environment for both human and canine,” according to the business’ website.

Gleeson started this pet drive after noticing that families were having trouble providing food for their pets, especially during the holiday season.

“I know in this economy, people are struggling to feed their pets,” said Gleeson. “My pet is a part of my family and I would be devastated if I couldn’t feed it.”

Family of New Paltz Food Pantry received pet food last week and according to director Kathy Cartagena, the food is already gone.

Kevin Koller, who runs Bark Place of Ulster in Highland, N.Y. with his wife, conducts training classes for dogs along with Gleeson. Koller and his wife agreed to make their business a drop-off location for the food after realizing the great need that families have for pet food.

“I know there are some people that are hurting,” said Koller. “They turn their pets into the ASPCA because they can’t handle them anymore.”

Gleeson said she wants to make sure that families do not have to choose between feeding their pets and feeding their kids.

“I’ve had a few instances where food pantries have called me for a crisis and I’ve gone directly to the homes (to drop off pet food),” said Gleeson.

Rosanne Platoni, owner of Sue’s Zoo in New Paltz, was more than happy to make her business a drop-off location for the pet food. With the large number of food drives in existence, Platoni thinks that the importance of pet food drives is not acknowledged.

“People don’t realize that pets need food too,” said Platoni.

Gleeson has worked with many people to make this pet food drive successful and has found that people come together in times of need.

“I’ve realized how much compassion people have for total strangers,” said Gleeson.

Food pantries only allow pet food on their shelves during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays because they lack extra room to hold the it all year round. Gleeson hopes to change that.

“I would love to be able to open a pet food pantry available all year round,” said Gleeson.

If you are interested in donating food, visit centerforheeling.com for participating drop-off locations and pantries.