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Feeding The WHOLE Family: Pet Food Banks Under Stress

I’ve touched on this point before: Pets are part of the family and deserve to be properly fed accordingly. But we’re in tough times, when many can’t afford to feed themselves adequately. And as a result, the needs of beloved furry family members often suffer…

Max Good Boy - © 2023 Toronto Humane SocietyThe upside is, Max was reunited with his owner, and both are now enrolled
in a short term support program provided by the Toronto Humane
Society while the owner gets back on their feet.

Shelters across Canada (and the U.S., we presume) are trying to deal with a flood of unwanted pets. One of the reasons folks are making the heartbreaking decision to surrender or abandon their furry loved ones is they can’t afford to take care of them. And that, first and foremost, usually means they can’t afford to feed them.

A case in point…

And, if your eyes are still dry after reading this snippet, there’s something just not quite human about you.

Max is a 4-year-old midsized multi-breed living in Toronto. The note left with him, when he was abandoned in a city park a few weeks ago, described him as ‘good with kids’, and ‘very smart’. But the note also explained that the owner had lost their job and their apartment and could no longer take proper care of Max.

The good news is, the Humane Society was Able to track down the owner and offer the services of its Emergency Care program to tide the family over current hard times.

The bad news is, support programs are seeing record demand for pet food and services – just like food banks for humans. And for the same reasons.

Inflation has slammed pets as well

Montreal pet food company Wilder Harrier says, in a news release, that, “while grocery prices have risen by about 10 percent since the beginning of the year, those increases have been drastically outpaced by the price increases for pet food. The price of dog food alone, for example, has increased by an average of 45.5 percent compared to 2020, three times higher than the typical increase of five per cent per year.”

“The prices have led nearly one-quarter (24 per cent) of pet owners to consider rehoming or giving up their pets to a shelter. Heartbreaking stories of people abandoning their pets in parks and other public spaces, with a note explaining they simply can’t afford to properly care for them any longer, are not uncommon.”

Denise Angus, the founder of Mattie’s Place, a pioneer among pet food banks, says centre has gone from  feeding 500-600 pets a month before the pandemic to more than 1,200.

“The need is so huge, I’ve never seen anything like it in all the years I’ve been doing this,” Angus told CBC Toronto.

The downside of beating COVID

Most folks would say we’ve beaten COVID. And that has all kinds of upsides. But one big, often hidden downside is that many pets acquired during the lockdown are turning into burdens, now that their owners a are going back to work outside the home again.

Tori Gass, of the Etobicoke Humane Society, points out, it’s not just the cost of pet food that’s soared: “We have seen vet costs increase by approximately 25 percent … over 2021.”

But ability of pet owners to feed their furry family members remains the top issue on their plates.

It seems significant to me that the primary issue facing humans, in the face of high inflation and soaring food prices, is also the primary issue facing thousands of pets living on the verge of abandonment.

Bottom Line…

Denise Angus has the last word on the crisis facing so many pet owners and their furry loved ones: “Often that pet is the link for their own mental health and the only company sometimes that they have. […] We should support pets and their people however we can to keep them together, and that’s just really important.”

Just because someone is temporarily financially disadvantaged doesn’t mean they’re a bad pet parent.

The upside is, there IS help out there. Ask your local Humane Society, your vet and your neighbourhood pet supplies stores what’s available in your community.

~ Maggie J.