ALEXANDRIA, Va. (DC News Now) — From kibble and litter to treats and wheelchairs, DMV families facing financial stress are also noticing increased costs to feed their furry friends.

One local animal shelter’s ‘pet pantry’ is providing relief for free with no judgment as the community continues to donate to neighbors in need.

“Maybe they’ve lost a job, maybe they’ve had a medical issue, maybe they have a family member who has had something happen, and they’re really concerned that they might have to separate from their pet,” said Joanna Fortin of the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria on Tuesday.

After the pantry opened in 2020, Fortin’s team was forced to utilize shipping containers to house increased donations for pets of all kinds, including “rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, sometimes reptiles,” Fortin said.

Federal data shows pet food prices have soared since 2020, the same time when the pantry opened. The demand is apparent, as Fortin said 150 to 200 people visit the pantry monthly.

(Source: Federal Reserve Economic Data)

“We try to send about a month’s worth of food home with everyone, depending on the number of pets they have, the size of the pets,” Fortin said.

“We are helping thousands of pets and their families every year… ‘we look at it as a partnership with pet families to keep them together.”

The shelter does not require proof of income or residency to receive pantry items, and donations can be dropped off at the shelter’s Eisenhower Avenue location during normal business hours.

Pet families not facing emergency financial needs can still stretch their dollar while purchasing pet food.

The Consumers’ Checkbook (CC) for the Washington metro area reports where pet food prices are likely lower, including opting for potential savings by online subscription-based food service.

The CC also suggests consumers buy food online at Petco and PetSmart, and pick up purchases within stores – customers can get 10% off at Petco and 5% off at PetSmart.

Sam’s Club, BJ’s and Walmart prices are regularly cheaper than other retailers, according to the CC.

Anyone who wishes to donate to the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria can find more information on their website and social media pages.

The shelter also offers regular free-vaccine clinics for pets, and community events to promote their services.