EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — Hoping to give back to the community that supports it and helps animals in need, the Eau Claire County Humane Association has opened the Community Pet Pantry.

Inside the pantry — housed in a shed on the shelter's property — people in need can find food for their cats, dogs and other pets, along with supplies, including cat litter.

Recently, the pantry had rabbit cages along with rabbit and guinea pig food available, said Liz Berg, the association's kennel supervisor and foster coordinator.

"I don't think a day goes by at the shelter where someone doesn't come in and donate food and supplies," Berg told the Leader-Telegram . "We can't always use it all, and knowing there is a need in the community, we wanted to do something to help."

In addition, shelter staff also wanted to do something to honor Katherine Schneider's many years of service to the community.

Schneider, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire psychologist emerita, launched the We All Love Our Pets program in 2006 in Eau Claire. Under the auspices of the humane association, the program furnished pet food and supplies to owners who, because of a combination of age and frailty, disability and low income, couldn't get out and shop for their beloved companion animals' needs.

"When you read about people giving their own meals to their animals, it's sad," Schneider said in a 2013 interview. "I thought, 'We can do better than that.' "

The longtime animal lover started the program after reading an article in the November 2005 issue of Ladies' Home Journal about a similar venture that provided pet food for Meals on Wheels clients with pets.

The program ended in December; however, the humane association will continue to make monthly deliveries to Park Tower Apartments in Eau Claire, said Elise Bauer, the shelter's executive director.

The Community Pet Pantry opened Jan. 1, and people who need to visit it can do so anonymously from 9 a.m. to close daily, except on Mondays, when the pantry is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Berg said. For complete shelter hours are listed on the association's website.

"It's there for the community, and we want them to use it," Bauer said. "But we ask that people take only what they need, so we can help others."

In a post about the humane association in November, Schneider said she thought the pantry will meet the needs of many of the program's customers and others not in the program.

Bauer agreed.

"We regularly get calls from people looking for help," she said, noting the shelter used to send excess pet food and litter to the St. Francis Food Pantry.

While the St. Francis pantry was created to assist hungry people, its officials also are willing to offer any donated pet food and cat litter to clients who need it.

"The families definitely know that we receive (pet food) from time to time, and we are handing it out as soon as we get it," said Kristie Matthaei, St. Francis' executive director, in December.

If the Community Pet Pantry "can help someone feed and keep their pet, that's great," Berg said.

The Dunn County Humane Society opened the Little Pet Food Pantry outside its shelter in mid-2017.

"We don't want anyone to go hungry, not a person or an animal," said Josh Dalton, DCHS executive director, about a month after the pantry opened.

An AP Member Exchange shared by the Leader-Telegram.