With seven dogs, four cats, two foster cats, 14 barn cats and two rescue potbelly pigs, Amy Arellano has a pretty good idea of what’s required to feed a large group of animals. “I know what we spend on food,” Arellano says. “I can’t imagine what a rescue that has 300 animals up for adoption has to spend.”
Arellano decided to help. She had already been working with a nonprofit, supporting animal rescues, when she got word about the Rescue Bank, a national pet food donation program powered by greatergood.org. “Nobody was doing it in Minnesota,” Arellano says. “I looked at my husband and said, ‘I want to do this.’”
The Rescue Bank began operations in Minnesota in 2017. Arellano runs the program, which is financially supported by local affiliate Wags & Whiskers, a nonprofit animal rescue organization. Simply put, the Rescue Bank works by collecting food donations from manufacturers, distributors and retailers, and redistributing them to local animal groups. “PetSmart might need to clean out a warehouse,” Arellano says. “Some donations are short-dated, or we’ve gotten packaging changes or damaged bags.” Donations include food for dogs, cats and horses; vaccines; cat scratchers; pet beds and other items. The supplies are distributed according to the needs of each rescue location, based on the number and size of animals it houses.
To date, the organization has handed out almost 600,000 pounds of pet food to 43 rescue organizations in the area, something Arellano is rightly proud of. “These groups need help,” she says. “Pet food is their second largest expense after vetting.” Despite the work she’s doing with the Rescue Bank, Arellano still saw a need for pet food donations outside of just rescue organizations and shelters. This led her to open her own pet food nonprofit, Feeding Furry Friends, in December of last year. “I saw there was more and more need for pet food,” she says. “I started taking individual donations and leftover food.”
Arellano runs Feeding Furry Friends side by side with the Rescue Bank but is able to work with local vendors to get pet food below cost, take individual donations and distribute the food more freely. Particularly, Feeding Furry Friends donates pet food to food shelves, where people can bring it home to their pets. “Food shelves go through a lot of pet food, and people don’t think to donate that,” Arellano says. She is also working to launch a pet food program for veterans with pets.
For Arellano, the “why” behind her journey to make sure that all animals have full bellies began 16 years ago when she adopted her first rescue dog. “It’s the pure love between a pet and an owner,” she says. “After a bad day or a good one … it never ceases to amaze me how healing and therapeutic it is.”