NOTE: This press release contains updated information as of March 22, 2016.
WEST CHESTER (March 17) –A new initiative will provide pet food and veterinary medical care free of charge to senior citizens who lack the financial resources to care for their beloved animal companions. Best of all, these services will be delivered right to the doors of those who are homebound or lack transportation.
State Senator Andy Dinniman has partnered with the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation (the charitable arm of the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association) and Meals on Wheels of Chester County to establish this new program. It will be named for Henry, the Dinniman family’s 9-year-old standard poodle who died in December 2014 and was well-known throughout the Chester County region.
The new program was officially launched at a special open house at Hope Veterinary Specialists and Veterinary Cancer Center on Sunday, March 20. For more information on the event, visit www.pavetfoundation.org.
Recently, Senator Dinniman, along with representatives from Meals on Wheels of Chester County and the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation, made the new organization’s first pet food delivery to the home of Harvey Phillips in Valley Township.
Phillips, 83, has difficulty leaving his home due to a disability. A Korean War veteran and widower, Phillips said he was grateful for the visit and meals provided first to him and now to his pets through Meals on Wheels and “Henry’s Fund.” Phillips has a 7 –year-old black toy poodle named Inky, as well as a cat, Samuel, which both received complimentary food through the program.
Dinniman said he got the idea for a mobile food pantry when he heard about senior citizens, and disabled residents on low or fixed incomes who are homebound and struggle to afford adequate food, pet care items and veterinary medical services for their pets.
“It’s a heartbreaking situation because for many these animals are their only companions,” he said. “And it’s important to keep pets and their owners together in their homes – not only does it have therapeutic value, it also takes the burden off rescue organizations that are overwhelmed with surrendered animals.”
Now, thanks to the support of the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation, Meals on Wheels of Chester County, the Chester County Department of Aging and local senior centers and senior organizations that idea is becoming reality.
Pet food and care items are funded by private and corporate donors through the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation, while Meals on Wheels will make the actual deliveries. In addition, representatives from local senior centers, senior housing facilities, and other nonprofits are identifying homebound pet owners in need. Finally, pro bono veterinary care will be provided by local partners and veterinary residents.
“The Veterinary Foundation is excited that this very worthwhile cause has become reality. We look forward to expanding the program to help more seniors and their pets in the near future,” said Dr. Tom Garg of Hope Veterinary Specialists and the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation.
“Senator Dinniman has been a great supporter of Meals on Wheels for many years in helping our efforts to feed those who are homebound and often isolated in our communities. Now, he is taking it a step further by helping these people feed their loyal companions, their pets,” said Jeani Purcell, Director of Meals on Wheels of Chester County. “When I first told these clients that free dog and cat food was available, the relief and joy in their faces was overwhelming. We greatly appreciate Senator Dinniman and the PA Veterinary Foundation for this opportunity to help our clients feed their beloved pets.”
The first pet food deliveries and veterinary house calls will be made on March 17 in our area.
“We know that both people and their pets are happier and healthier when they are together in their own homes,” Dinniman said. “Keeping pets and their people together – that is the goal of this organization and so far the support for it has been unprecedented and overwhelming. In fact, we plan on Chester County serving as a successful model that we can eventually take statewide and later even to the national level.”