Group That Feeds Homeless Pets Is Getting Its Own Building
A sandwich shared between a hungry dog and its loving human a few years ago led Betheny Green to turn an idea into an agent of change.
Green is the founder and director of My Dog Eats First, a nonprofit providing free food, supplies, vaccinations and other services for the pets of Louisville's homeless population.
The organization that began as a grassroots effort in 2014 to ensure homeless residents' pets had enough food — handing out bags of food, leashes and treats in parking lots around Waterfront Park — is moving into a permanent location in Louisville's Portland neighborhood.
Green said she'll being moving into the Anchor Building on Portland Avenue on April 1. The building is the former Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club.
She said the brick-and-mortar location will enable the nonprofit to store more pet supplies. The group will also begin efforts to establish a veterinary care center in the location. She hopes the building will help the organization evolve into a full-fledged pet food bank.
Green said a majority of the people and pets who My Dog Eats First serves come from the Portland area.
Once the building is set up, the few dozen volunteers who work with the nonprofit will begin teaming up with other homeless service providers to meet residents where they are, rather than having them commute to a parking lot or a building, Green said.
Pets are not welcome at most homeless shelters in Louisville. Green said her group would also begin exploring the possibility of partnering with other agencies to offer shelter services.
Natalie Harris, executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless, said no agency tracks the number of homeless men and women with dogs in Louisville.
She said the nonprofit's work is an essential part of complete care for one of Louisville's most vulnerable populations.
"Many homeless persons and families have to choose between feeding themselves and their animals," she said.
Green said the idea came to her during a lunch date with her son on Bardstown Road. After he offered her lunch to a man nearby Green believed to be homeless, she watched the man give the first bite to his dog.
"That just blew my mind," she said. "He took food out of his own mouth basically to make sure his little companion animal was fed."