Food banks for pets are appearing across the country to help pet owners who have fallen on hard times. Many people are forced to give up their pets when they run into financial difficulties. But the food banks could prevent animals from being handed into rescue centres or simply abandoned.
Scottish Pet Food Bank
Audrey Teller and her partner Stewart run a Pet Food bank serving central Scotland. This is run from their home where they store food for different animals including dogs, cats, fish, rabbits and hamsters. The food has taken over a spare room and a neighbour's garage. The couple rely on donations from retailers and the public and report that they are experiencing a huge demand for the service.
When All Else Has Been Lost
Those who have lost their jobs or who are on benefits sanctions struggle to feed their animals and are often obtaining much of their own food from food banks. Audrey and Stewart have fed 650 animals since they started the service in 2016. They believe that pets are particularly important to those who have lost everything else. Pets can be a reason for owners to carry on when they feel that life is hopeless. The unconditional love of an animal can bring comfort and hope to those who are most in need of support.
Pet Food Banks Around the Country
Denbighshire's first pet food bank was established by Marjorie Summerfield. She believes that it is better for animals to stay with their owners and hopes that her service is ensuring that this happens more often. Another pet food bank founder, Lisa Parratt, from Market Harborough, recently told BBC Radio Leicester "We've been open officially a week and a half - and so far we've had three people come forward for help already. "People may be struggling for a variety of reasons. Some pet food banks will ask for evidence that those who approach them are on benefits or are pensioners. However, many food banks will take people at their word. But how many pet owners are struggling to feed their animals?
Pet Rescue Centres
Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, which typically takes in 7, 000 animals a year, has said that most pet owners do not like to admit their financial difficulties when they are giving up their pet up for adoption. They are more likely to provide a vague reason such as mentioning that their circumstances have changed or that they are moving house. This makes it hard to know how many pet owners are forced to give up their pets purely for financial reasons.
Christmas and Pets
The weeks in the lead up to Christmas often see more pets handed in to rescue centres. People prioritise buying presents for their family over the needs of their pets. The food banks are clearly helping those in trouble to cope but food is only part of the problem. Pets also need veterinary care which can be very costly indeed. Do you think that pet food banks are a good idea? Would you consider starting one?