Food, shelter, and love
Lilburn couple works to keep pets and their humans together
Daffy’s Pet Soup Kitchen
By Carole Townsend
Tom and Diane Wargo are retired. Well, that’s not quite accurate. The couple both left their former careers to work full time helping animals. That may sound like a quiet plan for their golden years, but the Wargos’ passion for bettering the lives of all animals is exhausting - physically, emotionally, and financially.
“We established the first food bank for animals in the whole country,” Tom said. Surprisingly, while there is help for people who can’t afford food for their families, there is precious little help for that family’s beloved pet. “They’re members of the family too,” Tom said. “I know of a case where the family had to turn their dog over to the pound, knowing that 5 minutes later, their dog would be killed. The owner was crying, the kids were crying. It was terrible.”
All it takes is a foreclosure, the loss of a job, a health emergency or some other life-changing event, and families don’t have enough food for themselves, let alone for their pets. The problem of homeless and starving animals in Gwinnett County and in the nation is rampant, but it doesn’t have to be. With some responsible spaying and neutering, and with a helping hand for families and pets in trouble, the outcome can be a much happier one.
The Wargos’ efforts are not limited to Gwinnett County, or even to Georgia. With the recent flooding in Louisiana, their organization is helping to feed starving animals separated from their owners and left without food. “When we first heard how bad things are in Louisiana, we loaded up thirty thousand dollars’ worth of supplies, drove them over there and set up an emergency rescue place,” Tom said. The rescue group is still trucking in thousands of bales of hay to help feed horses and livestock who would otherwise starve. “Even the people who had enough hay in their barns and who were growing more, have been hit by this catastrophe. The hay fields and barns were flooded,” Tom said. Sadly, one of the barns in which donated hay was being stored burned down, so all of that hay was lost.
“We started the first (pet food store) literally, out of my truck,” Tom laughed. “I did that for about ten years, and then we opened up a warehouse. Eventually, we reached a point that we were giving away about eighty thousand pounds of food a month. There were some years that we broke 1 million pounds of food, back around 2007 and 2008.”
Left: Daffy’s is trucking in thousands of bales of hay to help feed horses and livestock so they do not starve.
“Think about it this way. In Gwinnett County there are eight major food banks for people. That means seventy to eighty percent of those people need help with pet food. That’s an accurate percentage.” Some, in fact, were faced with having to turn their pets over to the shelter, knowing that they would be euthanized.
The Wargos have seen people sleeping in their cars or on the street because they had no place to go that would accept their pet. That could be true in natural disasters, or in domestic violence cases. The Wargos started the first pet shelter connected to a domestic violence shelter in Rockdale County.
Tom and Diane have helped start more than 200 food banks in the United States. Petco stores help their efforts, too, by donating supplies and collecting food donations. From the efforts of one couple 20 years ago, has grown a loving and generous organization that helps families that need help for many reasons. If an elderly person who has a pet passes away, family members will often turn that pet over to the pound.
No matter why a family has problems, if the Wargos can help them keep their beloved family pet, they will. It’s that simple. Job loss, health matter, the reasons are many. Keeping the family pet helps ease a lot of pain.
At Daffy’s Pet Soup Kitchen in Lawrenceville, any family can shop at the store for new and used pet supplies and food. “People see the store and think, ‘Oh, some other family needs help more than I do,’ and they’re embarrassed to come in. Don’t be! All of the profits go right back into helping animals,” said Tom. One hundred percent of the proceeds help animals. Qualified families needing assistance can get free dog food by completing some forms and showing proof that the animal has been spayed/neutered.
To learn more about the SOS Club, Daffy’s Pet Soup Kitchen and other associated rescue efforts, visit www.daffyspetsoupkitchen.org. Any help is appreciated, but what the Wargos really need right now is financial donations, which help them buy desperately needed hay, and rent trucks to move supplies to Louisiana and other areas needing relief. Volunteers are also needed. Donations can be made through the website, or checks can be mailed to the SOS Club, PO Box 1640, Lilburn 30048. Daffy’s is located at 134 South Clayton Street in Lawrenceville.