The U.S. Department of Homeland Security released a memorandum on March 19 defining some dog, cat and other food industry professionals as “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” during the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal agency deemed pet food, ingredient and packaging facility workers as necessary for “ensuring continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security.”

What’s more, although the U.S. economy is uncertain at best and some businesses are beginning to lay off workers, there has been a surge in pet food purchases — Chewy’s stocks are actually up, and several pet food companies have already confirmed that they’ve seen jumps in sales numbers over the last few weeks, including General Mills (Blue Buffalo), whose executives said on an earnings conference call last week that pet food sales spiked by a double-digit percentage for the week-ending March 7.

So, a silver lining in these challenging times and more proof that the pet food industry is, while perhaps not catastrophe-proof, at least catastrophe-resistant.

The industry isn’t going anywhere — so how can it help?

We all want to be able to help our fellow humans during our collective time of need, but the pet food industry is at its best when it’s helping the four-legged companions of said humans, as well. Fortunately for the philanthropically minded, there is no shortage of ways to be of service.

  • Help a shelter out: In the initial panic and concern over how the new coronavirus was spreading, animal shelters all over the country reported an increase in animal drop-offs. (The local shelter I volunteer at went to capacity and beyond in a matter of days.) Shelters always need supplies, but they need them now more than ever. If you’re already partnered with an animal organization, odds are you’ve already increased your aid to them. If you’re not, now is the time to get on board and make a difference.
  • Help out pet owners: There are entire households that have been quite abruptly financially upended, and we know that odds are pretty good those people have a pet or two. If you want to make a difference in the most direct way possible, figure out how to make supplies available to pet owners who might need it. Again, your local animal shelter can be of help, as they typically get calls from those looking for low-cost aid for their pets. Whether you work with them, find a neighborhood pantry to stock, or pull together a plan for your customers to contact you if they’re in need, every little bit will help.
  • Keep in touch with the industry: It’s going to be a long year. Trade shows and conferences are rescheduled or canceled entirely. Travel has been suspended. Cities and even entire states are going on lockdown. No one really knows what’s going to happen from one day to the next, never mind anything further out. Now is the time to circle the wagons, because the pet food industry still has a job to do. Take care of each other and we’ll all come out the other side no worse for the wear (or maybe just a little ruffled).

Briefly: What other pet-related organizations are doing to help

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