If she has to choose between feeding her four dogs and two cats or feeding herself, Escambia County resident Miriam Grant will always choose her pets.
“They’re my babies, and I’ll give up my food before I let them go hungry,” said Grant, who is on a fixed income each month. “They’re my life.”
Thanks to a new partnership between local nonprofit Jo Jo’s Paws and Escambia County Animal Welfare, hopefully that’s a choice Grant won’t have to make in the future.
Jo Jo’s Paws recently relocated their pet pantry program to the Escambia County Animal Welfare and Adoption Center on Fairfield Drive, providing free cat and dog food to residents in need, along with a variety of essential pet items and resources.
Grant visited the pantry for the first time this month to get food and treats for her dogs and cats, after hearing about it from her friend Ann Walker. Walker also lives on a very limited disability income, so Jo Jo’s Paws has helped her several times with keeping her two dogs fed.
“It’s been incredibly helpful,” Walker said.
Jo Jo’s Paws Director and Founder Patti Roberts said they aim to provide judgment-free assistance to those who need a little help ensuring their pets don’t go hungry – whether it’s due to homelessness, living on a fixed income, or just some unexpected financial difficulties.
“Our main goal is to help people not have to make that choice of whether they’re going to eat or are their pets going to eat,” said Roberts, who manages the pantry with her friend Linda Signer. “Maybe their paycheck is a little tight, or maybe they just need some support or someone to talk to.”
The pet pantry is open to Escambia County residents with a valid driver’s license, although Roberts said exceptions can sometimes be made depending on the circumstances and number of available donations. The pantry is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Escambia County Animal Welfare Director John Robinson said he’s excited about the partnership with Jo Jo’s Paws, which ultimately helps keep pets out of the shelter by providing much-needed resources to owners who are struggling to care for their pets.
“Through this partnership, we can help provide citizens with a way to keep their animals instead of surrendering them to the shelter or having to give them away because of difficult circumstances,” Robinson said. “This will help keep pets in their homes or with their families, which in most cases is the best place for them to be.”
Jo Jo’s Paws previously operated their pantry in another location on Fairfield Drive until the building was sold, moving into Escambia County Animal Welfare about a month ago. Since April 2023, Jo Jo’s Paws has distributed more than 8,300 pounds of pet food to individuals in need, including 894 pounds of pet food distributed in just the first half of November.
Escambia County Animal Welfare provides the pantry space to Jo Jo’s Paws free of charge, and Robinson said he hopes to continue growing the partnership to help as many pets as possible. Roberts agreed.
“It’s been really great, and I feel that with the partnership, there’s a lot we can do,” Roberts said. “It may not happen fast, but I believe that over time, there are a lot of things we can help the community with – whether it’s low-cost vaccinations, low-cost spay/neuter, or other assistance programs.”
Jo Jo’s Paws is donation-driven, so Roberts said they are always appreciative of anyone willing to donate and help them assist even more people and pets.
“We want to keep pets out of the shelter and help the community – let them know there’s someone who’s there for them, empathizes with them and is there to help them through their situation,” Roberts said. “And with the county partnership, I believe we’ll be able to help a lot of people in the community.”
The most-needed items for Jo Jo’s Paws are cat and dog food (wet or dry), cat and dog treats, and 1-gallon or larger resealable plastic storage bags. Jo Jo’s Paws will gladly accept any pet items, including pet jackets or clothing, pet beds, blankets, collars and leashes, and kitty litter.
Donations can be dropped off at Escambia County Animal Welfare, located at 200 W. Fairfield Drive, during normal business hours: Monday-Friday from noon to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed Sunday).
For questions about donations or assistance through Jo Jo’s Paws, please contact Jo Jo’s Paws at 850-760-7876 firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Escambia County Animal Welfare, please visit the county website.