Free pet food offer brings deluge of requests

All 10,000 pounds now spoken for

December 26, 2012 (published)
By Edie Lau

The food is taken.

In yet another testament to the reach of electronic communication, an online news article about tons of free pet food stacked in a New York warehouse with nowhere to go attracted a torrent of requests almost instantly, some from as far away as Greece and Poland.

This week, if all goes as planned, 40 pallets’ worth of Pedigree, Cesar and Whiskas dog and cat food will start finding its way to pet owners ravaged in late October by Hurricane Sandy — the very people the food was intended for originally.

“It worked!” pronounced an elated, if weary, Dr. Brian Green.

Green is a veterinarian in Tarrytown, about 25 miles northeast of New York City. After Hurricane Sandy thrashed much of the coast, Green joined with other volunteers, including Mike and Martha Witkowski, owners of ZipJack Custom Umbrellas in nearby Elmsford, to collect and deliver donations of food and goods to storm victims.

Among the donations the volunteers received were 46 pallets of pet food from an animal rescue group in Texas. They were able to find takers for six of the pallets — equal to about 1,500 pounds of food — but as storm assistance poured in from all over, demand dwindled for the rest.

Green reached out to the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), a professional organization with nearly 50,000 members around the world, for help in spreading the word about the free food. VIN’s media arm, the VIN News Service, published an article on Friday.

By Saturday, responses began filling Green’s email inbox.

“Then it hit Facebook and went viral, and I have fielded probably close to 300 emails now,” Green said Wednesday.

Five came from Greece and one from Poland — from rescue organizations that apparently hadn’t thought about the cost and logistics of shipping the food overseas, he said.

Within the United States, messages came from 15 or 16 states, Green said, including one from a rescue organization in Texas offering help distributing the food. It turned out the organization was the same one that donated the food originally.

Calls also poured into ZipJack. In the end, the storm relief volunteers were able to connect with several organizations that said they could deliver the food to storm victims on Staten Island, the Rockaways and Long Island, the hardest-hit parts of the state.

“We were having so much trouble identifying the people in need, and the organizations, they know where it needs to go and can provide the transportation,” Green said.

“The happy ending is, people in desperate need are going to get a lot of pet food,” he said. “That’s the bottom line. ... I’m very happy to have been a part of it.”

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