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During the Season of Giving, Don’t Forget Needy Pets

Fill the Bowl for pets and their families

  • Bishop Michael Curry: "There's no measure to the blessings animals bring to our lives." Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina

By Christine Gutleben

As we approach the season of giving, communities across the country are collecting toys, clothes, and food for needy families. It's a wonderful time of giving.

But the holidays are also a time to reach out to the needy families who cherish their pets. Since 68 percent of American households include pets, it's no surprise that food banks across the country receive countless requests for pet food and supplies throughout the year. Sadly, very few holiday donation drives include pet supplies.

The holiday season, is a perfect time to introduce the concept of pet provisions to your local food bank with the Fill the Bowl project »

Fill the Bowl helps keep families and pets together

The HSUS's Fill the Bowl Project helps close this gap by providing opportunities for members of faith communities to collaborate with food banks to help pets and their families by donating pet food and supplies.

It is especially important for food banks to be able to provide pet food and supplies, because access to free pet food can be the deciding factor in whether a family keeps their beloved pet or must gives him or her up to face an uncertain future. Access to food and basic care is often all it takes to keep low-income families and their pets together.

A time to "honor the important roles animals play in our lives"

The benefits of pets in our lives are boundless; they bring companionship, joy, humor, and love, and they even teach us.

For children, they can provide lessons in responsibility and an appreciation for all God's creatures. For people living in need, the elderly, or the sick and shut-in, they can lighten otherwise heavy burdens.

Start a Fill the Bowl project in your community »

So it's little wonder that many low-income pet owners will cut back on their own provisions to share what little they have with their beloved companions.

"It was the animals who attended Christ's birth that night in the manger"

I've had the pleasure of talking with Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, bishop for the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, who shared insights into the special relationship between animals and people: "There's no measure to the blessings animals bring to our lives," he notes. "And it's especially heartwarming when you hear tales of those with so little doing with even less in order to provide for their animals. Those folk are better stewards than even they know."

There's no measure to the blessings animals bring to our lives. - Bishop Michael Curry

Bishop Curry continues, "It's long been a part of some of the medieval legends about Christmas that it was the animals who attended Christ's birth that night in the manger when no one else was there. Remembering the animals' hospitality by extending our own to them is a wonderful way to honor the important roles animals play in our lives," he adds.

Help your community fill the bowl this season

So while we're remembering the less fortunate among us this holiday season, why not expand our circle of compassion to include pets and the people who love them?

It's easy:

  • Add an extra bag of pet food to your food bank donation this year.
  • Start your own pet-food collection in your church community through The HSUS's Fill the Bowl Project.
  • Reach out to your local animal shelter and offer a partnership for the holidays: ask if they need a pet food collection, dog and cat toys, or blankets for the homeless animals in their care.

Providing sustenance for pets is more than a can of food or a bag of kibble; it's an acknowledgement of the important role that pets have in our lives, and it's a symbol of community support for every member of the family. Make the Fill the Bowl project part of your giving this holiday season and all year round.


Christine Gutleben is the senior director of the Faith Outreach program of The Humane Society of the United States.

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