In Polk County, feeding the pets of the elderly is nothing new to the SPCA of Florida, But a new partnership with a local organization could increase the number of pets they feed by the thousands.

Gladys Henderson, 81, is one of those people. She has three small dogs named Freeway, Follow Me and Dusty. She says feeding them isn’t easy because their food can add up, but she can’t imagine life without them.

“I love them with all my heart," she said. "They’re actually my life. I’ve always had animals, dogs. Always."

Henderson receives services through Volunteers in Service to the Elderly. Volunteers in Service to the Elderly (VISTE) was founded in 1983 and serves nearly 4,000 clients in Lakeland, Bartow, Fort Meade, and Mulberry. VISTE’s mission is to enable the frail elderly to remain safely and independently in their own homes, and does so with the help of volunteers delivering services with a personal touch.

VISTE is the SPCA’s new partner for their Ani-Meals program. SPCA Florida launched the Ani-Meals program in 2009 when the partner agencies realized their food delivery clients were sacrificing their supplies in order to keep their cherished fur companions.

In 2012 SPCA Florida received grant funding to provide veterinary care to Ani-Meals pets, and even had volunteers handle the animals’ transportation.

“We’ve noticed that in the community has brought it to our attention that a lot of these people don’t feed themselves, they feed their animals their food. So we’ve created an Ani-Meals programs that helps these individuals by giving them the food for the animals they need,” said SPCA program manager Connie Johnson.

The SPCA was serving 170 pets before their partnership. They want to serve all 4,000 members of the VISTE program but more volunteers are needed to make that happen.

VISTE is asking for volunteers to help with the routes to deliver food to the elderly and their pets. Those interested in helping can call 863-284-0828 extension 3 or email

Pet food is delivered every two weeks to elderly clients who are enrolled in the participating programs.

To take advantage of the free dog food you have to be enrolled in one of the programs. Visit for more information.