It’s a challenge Albertans are facing more everyday: making the difficult decision of having to surrender their pet because they cannot afford the cost of food.
Tough economic times have left some pet owners with no choice but to give up their animals.
But there is a program in Lethbridge stepping up to help those in need.
“If it’s crossing your mind, ‘Man, I can’t feed my pet, my next option is re-home the animal,’ this is here for you,” Skylar Plourde, an officer with Lethbridge Animal Services, said.
Plourde is part of the team that helped to launch the community program.
Their goal is to support families facing short-term financial difficulties so no pet owner has to choose between paying their bills or feeding their pets.
“One of the reasons people surrender pets to rescue groups or shelters is because they can’t afford to give the proper care,” Plourde said. “And a lot of the time, it’s food.”
Plourde told Global News that after seeing a peak in animal surrenders, they recognized a need in the community.
“The whole reason we started was to eliminate that one reason why people surrender,” Plourde said.
“You know, ‘I need to surrender my animal, I can’t afford to feed it.’ Well here, how about we give you two or three weeks of food until your next paycheck?”
The program was started in 2015 and while it is still relatively young, the impact within the community has been swift.
“Through 2016, with the numbers we saw very little surrenders, specifically for that reason: ‘I can’t afford to feed it.’ But the amount of people coming in looking for food definitely went up,” Plourde said.
Local pet owner Fabian Chiefbody told Global News veterinary costs aside, he is still faced with additional animal care costs that can add up quickly.
“With my everyday expenses, it’s kind of hard to fit in the dog food, the treats, the toys – everything else,” Chiefbody said.
“It helps a lot when you don’t have to pay for food.”
In 2016 alone, over 200 Albertans found themselves having to use the pet food bank.
“Almost everyone I know has to use it now and again, because dog food is getting pretty pricey nowadays,” Chiefbody said.
However, the program is not meant to be a permanent solution for those struggling to afford owning a pet. It’s simply there to help short-term.
“We might see them come in on a regular basis for two or three months then never see them again,” Plourde said.
“Which to me is a good thing because it means we’ve helped them through that rough patch (and) now they’re able to be responsible pet owners and keep their pets.”
For more information on the program, or to donate, you can contact Lethbridge Animal Services at 403-320-4099, or visit the Lethbridge Animal Services web page, under the “Pets and Wildlife” tab.