Food bank low on dog food

Vet clinic launches new effort to help pet owners in need

Jonathan Kirby had been donating to the food bank for some time when it dawned on him: if people who have fallen on hard times need food, their pets might too.
“As we started thinking about people in need I started thinking, ‘How many people at the food bank have pets?’” he said.

So Kirby, who serves as practice administrator and co-owns Coast Mountain Veterinary Services with his wife, veterinarian Dr. Christine Kirby, contacted the food bank about donating pet food. They not only made arrangements to donate several bags on a monthly basis, but on top of that, they’ll also be offering basic vet care to some pet owners in need as well. They will focus on basic, preventative care that could help problems from escalating into bigger, more costly issues.  

“Sometimes people in those situations might need health care for pets,” Kirby said. “If we can see them for a check up and give them basics like vaccines, a physical exam and parasite control… we can give them the basics to stay healthy.”

The food bank has been running low on dog food this summer, said Sara Jennings, food bank coordinator. Because, as food bank statistics indicate, people generally only use the service once or twice, offering pet food can be a huge help during hard times. “It takes the extra pressure off them,” Jennings said. “If they have a pet already they’re obviously going to care for their pet. It’s part of their family. Any time we can lower their food cost — even for their pet — that takes some of the pressure off of them.”

Typically the food bank receives donations unsolicited for pet food. “If we’re out of it, we’re out of it and people understand that,” Jennings said. “They don’t come to the food bank to get pet food, but they’re happy when they come that we have it.”

Generally, these users are long-time locals who have had their pets for many years — not seasonal workers who have impulsively gotten an animal they can’t afford, as some people assume, she added. Illness and injury are two of the top reasons people use the food bank for a longer stretch of time. Being able to keep your pet — rather than surrendering it — can be a huge source of comfort, Jennings said.

“If you’re dealing with some sort of illness or injury, a pet is a great companion to help you through that,” she said. “I think it’s important they still have that connection.”

They’re excited about the new partnership with Coast Mountain, but are still accepting outside donations — particularly of dog food. Open dry food bags and closed cans are welcome. “We always seem to have a fair bit of cat food. Right now we’ll accept both for sure, but dog food is what we’re short of,” Jennings said.

For his part, Kirby is looking forward to offering help to people and pets in need. “With the food bank, people don’t take advantage of it unless they really need it and we want to help those people who really need it,” he said.

The food bank is open every Monday in the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation Social Services Centre from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m.

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