A Scottish charity is encouraging pet owners to seek help if they are struggling to feed their pets.
This year, calls to the Scottish SPCA helpline have more than tripled due to the cost of living crisis.
In direct response, the charity launched the Pet Aid project in the summer with the goal of “moving forward” to a situation where people are forced to give up their pets.
Pet assistance includes frequent deliveries of cat and dog food to 16 food banks across Scotland, including Cfine in Aberdeen, The Haven in Stonehaven and Caithness Foodbank.
Today, he is joined by representatives from the Scottish SSPCA Rural Affairs Secretary Mairie Gojon to introduce pet food and see how the project is working at The Haven community larder.
Kirsten Campbell, chief executive of the Scottish SPCA, said the visit was important to help highlight the service and the wonderful work of the community store.
“We are participating by providing food and basic supplies for pets,” she said. “By coming here today, it lets people know that there are options open to them and they don’t have to give up their pet.
“It is very important to try to retain this human and animal bond, especially now that everyone knows the mental health benefits
“We know the problems are there, the food, the medical costs and the behaviour, so with food, that’s where we started. This is something we can do and get basic supplies to people who need them most.
“We’ve been more often during the pandemic but this feels very different. In a cost-of-living crisis, the calls to give up an animal are higher than I’ve ever seen, and I can only imagine they’re going to get worse – it’s heartbreaking.”
Positive response to the project
Julie Ann Gray, manager of The Haven, said it has become clear during the lockdown how important it is to have a regular stock of pet food.
Stonehaven-based Larder provides food and litter for animals, including dogs, cats, rabbits and hamsters, and is All this pet owners collect every week.
“For some people, their pet may be their only companion,” she said. “Very early in the pandemic, we realized pet food is important because many elderly people and people who don’t drive can’t get pet food.
“And now, we see quite a few young boys who are going to feed their dogs before they feed themselves. We often need to have meaningful conversations with them about being good for their pet.”
Carrie Giannelli, pet assistance coordinator, said there has been a positive response to the initiative so far – with 27 other food banks waiting to participate.
“We’re hoping to expand over the next few months once I have some volunteers on board, but talking to food banks has made it clear things are moving very quickly,” she said.
“Within one box, we have enough food to feed one cat and one dog for a week each, and hopefully we can expand that.
“It’s good to see what the food banks are doing and who they support, and how often people come to get pet food, so we have that information and we know what they need.”
Ms Angus North and Mearns MSP Gougeon said it was “cool” to see how Pet Aid worked first-hand and that she hoped it would prevent people from having to give up their pets.
“I think it’s really important that we don’t forget the animals’ role in this,” she said.
“It’s really shocking, first of all, to hear about the increase in the number of people who need help and support, as well as people not feeding themselves and feeding their animals instead.
“I think this is where this initiative is so important and people know the support is there and they can come and get it. I think it’s great to hear that the Scottish SPCA is expanding that network, and anything we can do collectively to keep people with their pets is going to be important. Right too.
“The overriding message of connecting with people is not to struggle alone at home, please reach out. Doing this for the first time can be difficult, but people are there to provide support, either here in The Haven or whatever is happening to you locally.”
Anyone struggling to take care of their pets is advised to contact the Scottish SSPCA via the helpline on 03000999999.
Big call for food
The Press and Journal and the Evening Express work hard to make sure people in our communities know where to get help.
As the cost of living crisis continues, the Big Food Appeal team is working to show you that Where is your nearest food bankalleviating the stigma surrounding food poverty, by Debunking myths about who can get support.
A full list of food banks and community stores that work with Pet Aid can be found at SPCA’s website.
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[Scottish SPCA hopes to expand Pet Aid to help more people struggling to keep their animals]
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