Food bank for pets to open in Encinitas

Food bank started by Rancho Coastal Humane Society

SAN DIEGO - An unusual type of food bank is opening up this weekend in Encinitas.

If you have spent much time downtown, you may have seen Bill "Coco" Avery riding his bicycle with his little black dog, Max, riding on top of the trailer behind it.

"I came down here and had nothing," Avery said.

A couple years back, Avery and Max found each other.

"I got him off the streets here," he added.

Now, they coast through San Diego as a team. Avery hates to think what his life would be like without the one thing he has left.

"I wouldn't have anybody to talk to, and it would be more depressing," Avery said. "He brightens me up a whole lot."

John Van Zante of Rancho Coastal Humane Society believes more than 10 percent San Diego's homeless population may have pets.

"There's a guy I see in Balboa Park that, his dog eats before he does," Van Zante said. "Regardless of what else may be going on, they have the same heart connection with their pet that I do with mine."

It is part of why the Rancho Coastal Humane Society is opening a pet food bank. It will be free for the working poor, seniors on fixed incomes, people with disabilities or terminal illnesses. They will also offer a wide range of items.

"Dog and cat food, leashes, collars, grooming products, shampoo … the basic things people need to keep together with their pets," Van Zante explained.

However, there may be a disconnect, as the bulk of the county's homeless population is on the streets of downtown San Diego.

While Rancho Coastal will help anyone qualified who will go in, people like Avery can't make it to Encinitas. Rancho Coastal is hoping other organizations and shelters will reach out to them, so they can start similar programs.

"Max is never hungry," Avery said. "He gets half of whatever I've got."

The two make ends meet. When they can't get dog food, Max gets half of Avery's dinner.

"If I've got something, he's got something," said Avery.

All too often their owners can't eat, which means their dogs have to wait.

The pet food bank will be open two Saturdays a month from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., at 389 Requeza Street in Encinitas.

For the grand opening this Saturday, the Drake Center for Veterinary Care will be available at 11 a.m. to offer free medical exams and vaccinations to those who qualify.

Clients who come to pick up pet food and other supplies between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. can sign up to see Dr. Michelle Drake at the food bank between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

You can find more information at

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