News Local

Coquitlam pet food bank expands program

By Eric MacKenzie

GETTY IMAGES

GETTY IMAGES

The City of Coquitlam’s animal shelter routinely has more food than it has use for, so it’s been passing meals on to pets in need for years through its Pet Food Bank program.

Although much of that extra food is shared with social agencies and other Metro Vancouver animal shelters, the city is happy to lend individual residents a hand in times of need, too. But it’s not a service many pet owners know about.

So, it’s the city’s plan to more actively encourage pet guardians to approach the shelter’s food bank when money is tight to ensure the four-legged members of Coquitlam families aren’t going hungry.

“The animal shelter receives many generous donations from local residents, pet industry or retail companies, as well as veterinarians,” said Sarah Bull, the city’s acting manager of bylaws, licensing and animal services. “We often have many, many bags of food available for cats, dogs and even small animals.

“We’d like to spread the message a little bit more ... Don’t hesitate, come and ask us, because we likely have something for you.”

Bull said making sure pets stay in homes where they’re loved is among animal services’ top goals in Coquitlam, and providing food to pet owners during tough times helps achieve that.

“We also don’t want to see the food that’s been generously donated to us go to waste,” said Bull. “It’s good-quality food and we would like it to benefit pets.”

Paws For Hope, a B.C. animal welfare organization, has been on the receiving end of some of Coquitlam’s excess pet food. Through its program called Roxy’s Relief, Paws For Hope distributes it to homeless shelters or other social service agencies in Vancouver, North Vancouver and New Westminster.

But executive director Kathy Powelson said Coquitlam is providing an “important service” by allowing individual pet owners to approach the Pet Food Bank on their own for assistance.

“One thing we often see with low-income pet guardians is they’ll feed their pets before they feed themselves,” said Powelson. “So, if there are services available that relieve the burden of their pet having food, they can take better care of themselves.”

Powelson added that she’s not aware of any other Lower Mainland municipalities offering the same service, but she’s not surprised the initiative came out of Coquitlam.

“(The city is) really proactive in improving the lives of animals,” she said.

“Hopefully, other municipalities will be watching with interest.”