A nonprofit that grew out of Owasso is looking to help Cherokee County pet owners in need. Community Animal Assistance, Rehoming and Education - or CAARE - has a mission to help people and pets stay together.
"We want to make sure animals get fed and go through the best life with their humans," said Sarah Workman, CAARE board member and Tahlequah resident. "We don't want to see people lose their animals."
The organization helps low-income individuals, or those temporarily needing assistance, by offering pet food pantries, education, veterinarian assistance, and rehoming.
"We're not a rescue; we're more about assistance," said Workman.
The average cost of basic food, supplies, medical care, and training for a dog or cat is $600-900 a year, according to the CAARE pamphlet.
"If someone can get help with dog or cat food, that's money they can spend on food to better their lives," said Workman.
The food pantries are not stationary boxes, but a pickup spot people sign up to go to on specific days. CAARE hosted Muskogee's first one before Christmas, and served 25 families.
They will hold a pet food pantry in the Hands of Grace parking lot on Jan. 22.
"My church helps with Hands of Grace, and they hear a lot of people asking about pets," said Workman. "A lot of food banks don't do it."
Donations are needed to help assist community pet owners so their animals are not malnourished or abandoned.
"It's so heartbreaking hearing how they were feeding their dog just bread, and they're so thankful someone decided to step up and do something like this here," said Workman.
A dog owner herself, Workman said she grew up on a rural dead-end road, where people would dump animals.
Food donations are preferred for the pantries and emergency needs, but other types of items are requested, as well as monetary donations.
"If we get more donations of food, then the money we get, we can put it back for future needs," said Workman.
Other items on the CAARE wish list are: treats, pill pockets, flea and tick prevention, collars and leashes, bowls, puppy pads and diapers, blankets or beds, gas cards, and gift certificates to Petsense, Walmart or Tractor Supply Co.
Used beds, blankets, toys, crates, and dog houses are also accepted.
Workman, who works at Petsense, said that local businesses are welcome to donate or help sponsor an event. CAARE has hosted BARKtoberfest in Owasso and Sapulpa, and hopes to have an event in Tahlequah, such as TahlePaws. The event offered an opportunity to provide free dog food, free and low-cost vet care, adoptions, and more.
And assistance isn't limited to cat and dog owners.
"We don't limit the type of animal, say if someone has a snake. We're animal people and that's all we care about," said Workman.
She had a table set up in Petsense Wednesday, accepting donations and giving out information. A bin is always at Petsense so people can drop off donations there.
Workman said volunteers are also needed to do community outreach, answer phones, or seek donations.
"We want to involve the community, and keep things on a community level," said Workman.
"That way, people can see how it's benefiting people in town."