A Co Antrim food bank is helping families who are struggling to feed their pets due to the rise in the cost of living.
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s (MEABC) Dog Control team have launched their ‘pet food bank’, helping to ensure families are not forced to give up their pets due to poverty.
The scheme has set up drop-off points at different locations throughout the borough to help those in need of extra support to care for their pets as the cost of living continues to rise.
Sinead Sargent, principal environmental health officer for MEABC, said the scheme is run on a year-round basis.
“It’s building on last year when we introduced this in the run-up to Christmas, but this year in particular, we’re all acutely aware of the hardships and the situation out there,” she said.
“We want everybody to be able to look after each other this Christmas, and that includes our four-legged friends as well.
“Although we promote it at this time of year, we continue it throughout the year and our officers see first-hand and understand how difficult things are for some of our residents.”
Through their Environmental Services team, the council are able to identify those who are in the most need.
“We see through our enforcement and animal welfare officers that there are people who are genuinely in need,” said Sinead.
“Quite often they will feed their pets before they feed themselves, so if we are able to provide the pet food bank, they can afford to feed themselves or go to one of the other food banks.
“That’s where the gap is, because often food banks will feed the person; there are not many that will feed the animal as well. We wanted to reach out and provide help where we can.
“Some of these people we come across are the most vulnerable in our society. I have two dogs myself and I know what the impact of losing those would be — especially on the children.
“A pet is very much part of the family and anyone who is indicating that they can no longer afford to keep their animal really is in dire straits.
“It’s one way — especially at this time of year when things are tough — that council can try and take that burden away.”
The scheme has received donations from a number of local businesses, as well as members of the public. “Last year I remember being in the Larne office and an elderly couple came in and gave a substantial donation.
“They were pensioners and they were so keen to give to others and look after everyone at Christmas, including the four-legged friends.
“It is often animal-lovers who have pets themselves that grasp onto this and are happy to help others who are in need and struggling.”
Donations to the scheme can be dropped off at Ardeevin, Galgorm Road, Ballymena, Smiley, Victoria Road, Larne or the Civic Centre, Antrim Street, Carrickfergus.
More information on the pet food bank, as well as the Christmas Toy Container, can be found on the Mid and East Antrim Borough Council website.