Last month Alberta Animal Services and the Red Deer Food Bank joined forces to become a part of the ‘Pets of the Homeless’ program.
The non-profit program is an ongoing North American effort to regularly supply donated pet food through food banks to local people who cannot afford to properly provide for their pets.
“We were throwing around ideas on how we could try and give back to the community. This was one of the ideas that came up. The goal is to provide proper nutrition for the homeless pets so they don’t just have to eat out of the dumpsters,” said Dezerae Jenkins, animal care manager with Alberta Animal Services. “We are a drop site for food – it can be any kind of dog or cat food – kibble or wet canned food. We also accept cat litter.
“People can also make cash donations to Pets for the Homeless and that money will go into a veterinary fund if someone’s pet gets sick. We can apply for them to have their vet bill covered as well.”
Over the course of a year, millions of people become homeless in North America and as the economy worsens the numbers will increase. Most people who experience homelessness (80%) are homeless for a short period of time and usually need help finding housing or a rent subsidy. But, for those with pets, it becomes more difficult.
The disadvantaged are forced to choose between their pet and a roof over their head. Most choose to stay on the streets with their pets for longer periods of time. Their pets are their comfort, provide an emotional bond of loyalty, and are nonjudgmental. It is estimated that one in four homeless and disadvantaged people have a pet. Pets of the homeless do not choose their guardians. A difference can be made to aid these defenseless pets.
“We called the Red Deer Food Bank and they said they have about 1,200 people asking for pet food. It is quite a high number. They have a program called Kibble Kitchen so through that pet food is collected and then given to those in need,” said Jenkins.
She added for the homeless, their pet provides a sense of comfort and companionship.
“There are people that will refuse housing because they have pets and there is no available housing that will allow pets. It’s a huge thing for these people where they don’t have any family or friends and that is their only lifeline.”
In the future as the program progresses, Jenkins said it is the goal to develop wellness clinics and spa and neuter clinics for those in need.
Pet food can be donated at Alberta Animal Services (4640 61st St.) or at the agency’s Adoption Centre located at Petland. For more information, call 403-347-2388. Those needing pet food or assistance can visit the Red Deer Food Bank at 7429 49th Ave. or by calling 403-346-1505.