HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Pet owners are noticing higher costs at the checkout counters of their favorite supply stores. That’s because prices for both food and related items like toys are on the rise.

The Department of Labor in February cited a 3.7% inflation for food, and a more than 7% increase in other pet-related items.

“It really is frustrating,” Huntsville dog owner Teresa Kirkpatrick said.

She said her bills are rising every time she checks out. Each time she shops for her dog Rocket, she normally adds a replacement ball she said he likes to tear up, but since the price for that has nearly doubled in recent weeks, the retired teacher said she finds herself passing it up more frequently; however, she said she is willing and able to keep up Rocket’s food costs, even as it rises.

“I’m in a position, fortunately, which I know a lot of people aren’t, where I can keep paying it but it’s making everything harder,” she said.

For those who have reached the breaking point though, that’s where groups like Feeding Families of Alabama come in. The Hartselle nonprofit is donation-run, serving all members of the family, including the four-legged ones.

“Just because you’re having a hard time, you’ve hit a hard patch in life, and nobody chooses to be in that position, but just because that happens doesn’t mean you should give up your pet,” Feeding Families Director Edee Grun said. “The shelters are also overflowing right now.”

Grun opens the Pet Food Pantry every second and fourth Monday of each month. Lately, she said they’re seeing more visitors, but their donations aren’t keeping up. In fact, she said they’ve done the opposite.

“Our donations have gone down dramatically. We’re having a hard time getting enough pet food in to handle the amount of requests that we have,” she said.

At the last Pet Pantry giveaway, they ran out of dog food.

“We ended up having to turn away about 40 families with dogs for pet food,” she said. “I’m getting a lot of calls in between pantry days too for people who need help.”

April also marks the fundraising event named after her own dog, Handsome. His birthday is April 1, but the drive lasts all month long. He is the mascot for the pet pantry, and Grun said every year he brings in countless donations.

“They’ve been overwhelming in the past. Last year, our whole sanctuary was stacked full, as high as we could stack the pet food,” Grun said.

This year, however, even Handsome’s drive has not gotten what it normally would. Grun said she hopes desperately they can get more donations because she said the thought of anyone being forced to think about giving up a pet, is a terrible thought.

“The pets are a member of the family. Especially with our elderly folks, that puppy, that cat may be the only family they have,” she said. “If I reached that point, I couldn’t give Handsome up. He is so deeply embedded in my life and my being, there’s no way I could give him up, so I know exactly how these people feel when they come here for help,” Grun said.

Handsome’s Kissing Booth will be Saturday, April 23 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at their office and chapel, at 373 Mount Tabor Road in Hartselle. Each kiss from the precious pup will be $1 to go towards the pet pantry– it will also be an opportunity for monetary or food donations.

Grun said because the building is also under 24-hour surveillance, anyone can drop off food any day of the week in the designated bins, and Grun will come pick it up, even if she is not in the building when food is dropped off.