(WSVN) - The note attached to this abandoned dog’s collar is heartbreaking: “My name is Lilo. Please love me. My mom can’t keep me and is homeless with 2 kids. She tried her best but can’t get help. I cost too much for her.”

The Tennessee animal shelter that posted it last week was able to reunite Lilo and her family.

But the story highlights countless others across the country struggling with pet care costs.

Mayor Michelle Gomez: “They just can’t afford them, and they feel bad having to give them up. Sometimes people don’t admit that they’ve given up their pets. They just say, ‘Oh, they’re no longer with us.'”

Americans adopted a lot of dogs and cats during the pandemic, more than 23 million or one in five households.

A “vast majority” of owners kept them, but some have surrendered or even abandoned their pets.

Mayor Michelle Gomez: “Now it’s becoming even a bigger problem as people are not able to afford to even take care of themselves even more with inflation and the rising costs of rent and the issues that they’re facing in today’s economy.”

Tamarac Mayor Michelle Gomez said she has spoken with people facing agonizing decisions.

Mayor Michelle Gomez: “They do share. They share that they will fast or go hungry than have their puppy or their cat not eat. It’s very sad. It’s very sad. Nobody should live that way.”

To help ensure they do not have to live that way, Mayor Gomez recently asked the commission to greenlight a new proposal.

It’s a free pet food pantry for struggling pet owners in Tamarac.

Mayor Michelle Gomez at January 11 Tamarac Commission meeting: “It is my request to add pet food, pet care, pet products and collections to our city’s pantry and social services programs.”

Commissioner Kicia Daniel: “I just want to say thank you for putting this on the agenda. This is my favorite thing.”

Mayor Michelle Gomez: “Well, thank you, so I take that as a yes?”

Commissioner Kicia Daniel: “Yes, yes, yes.”

Mayor Michelle Gomez; “OK, I’ve got support from commissioner Daniel.”

Mayor Michelle Gomez: “I was very, very pleased to get complete support from the whole entire commission, and the city staff is wonderful, and they said, ‘Sure, we’ll jump on it.'”

Susie Grimes, pet sitter: “Oh, I know it’s going to help.”

Tamarac resident and longtime pet sitter Susie Grimes said times have been tough.

Susie Grimes: “Oh, it’s been horrible. It’s been absolutely horrible. People don’t have the money for the food. God forbid I just got a letter from someone who said their cat was very ill. She’s not going to take it to the vet until she gets her next paycheck.”

The mayor herself adopted two abandoned puppies back in 2016.

Mayor Michelle Gomez: “They were in a box. Somebody couldn’t take care of them.”

Now she has a new mission: keeping residents’ four-legged friends in their homes.

Mayor Michelle Gomez: “I’m asking anybody who wants to donate any unexpired, unopened, dog and cat food to our city.”

Karen Hensel: “People can now drop off donations here at the Tamarac recreation center. The pet food pantry is set to open March 1st.”

Karen Hensel, 7News.

More information from the City of Tamarac:

Similar to Tamarac’s Food Pantry, Tamarac Pet Pantry clients will have to apply for services to determine whether they meet the income qualification that they city is working to determine. Applicants who qualify will be notified by City staff. They will be able to receive Pet Pantry Services by appointment only.

Persons making donations to the Tamarac Pet Pantry may do so at the Tamarac Recreation Center, 7501 North University Drive, Tamarac, FL, M-F, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. We will accept new and unopened food products [and treats] for dogs and cats, as long as the food is not expired. The pantry is not accepting pet products such as cages, toys, etc. at this time.

To ask questions about donating pet food, individuals may call the Tamarac Recreation Center at 954-597-3674.

Resources for help in other parts of South Florida:

Meals on Wheels South Florida Companion Pets Program.

211 Broward

211 Miami

CONTACT 7 INVESTIGATES:
305-627-CLUE
954-921-CLUE
7Investigates@wsvn.com

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