Pet Foods Banks: How to support them in the UK

pet food banks
Rens Hageman
Rens Hageman

If you’re looking for ways to help local pet owners who might be struggling to take care of their pets as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, why not support a local pet food bank? This article will tell you more about pet food banks, and the types of goods they need.

What is a pet food bank?

A pet food bank is a type of food bank that is dedicated to collecting donations (both of food and pet products and of cash, so that the operator of the food bank can buy goods that they are in greatest need of rather than relying only on being able to provide what people give) and then distributing them to people that need help providing for their pets’ basic needs.

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, a lot of people are undergoing real hardship and may be struggling to provide for their own basic needs as well as that of their pets. The need for foodbanks in the UK for people has risen a lot over recent years, even before the pandemic had its own impact too, the need for support of this kind was rising already year-on-year.

This means that food banks are busier now than most of them have ever been and naturally, many people in need have pets and need assistance with taking care of them too. Support from a pet food bank could mean the difference between someone being able to keep their pet during hardship versus having to surrender them to a shelter for want of being able to provide for their basic needs.

Who sets up or operates pet food banks?

This is variable; in many areas, local cat and dog charities operate pet food banks, and larger, national charities like the RSPCA and Blue Cross may operate pet food banks at individual local branches too.

Individuals can set up pet food banks and sometimes, veterinary clinics will operate a service inviting donations for others in need. Human food banks too generally provide pet food to people who are eligible for support from them, although you normally have to ask for this specifically.

What do pet food banks supply?

This will largely be dependent on what they can get; while pet food banks also invite cash donations (and these are often more useful as they allow the organizers to buy exactly what is most needed as well as benefit from economies of scale with bulk buying) generally the bulk of what they have available to offer will be based on what the general public tends to give.

In the main part this will be cat and dog food, but also potentially accessories like pet toys, beds and bowls, collars and leads, and potentially other things too, and food for other animals.

How can I find a pet food bank to donate to or volunteer at?

Not all areas have a dedicated pet food bank, although many areas have a service that functions in a similar way. Looking online, in local pet charity groups, and in the contacts details for larger, national pet charities can help.

Contacting the nearest food bank for people too might be helpful as they tend to keep supplies of pet food and/or know where to point their own service users if they need help providing for their pets.

If you really cannot find a service local to you and want to help pets and owners in need, you can always donate pet food to the local human food bank, or even consider setting up a pet food bank yourself.

What sort of things do pet food banks need most?

If you have found a pet food bank and you want to donate to them, they will always be happy to tell you what they are most in need of at any given time.

Cash is always good as well, but generally the type of things pet good banks need include:

  • Reasonable quality dry cat food.
  • Reasonable quality dry dog food.
  • Reasonable quality tins, pouches or trays of cat food.
  • Reasonable quality tins, pouches or trays of dog food.
  • Specialist cat and dog foods, such as grain free, and those for pets with sensitivities.
  • Dog treats.
  • Cat treats.
  • Toys for dogs and cats.
  • Unused or properly cleaned collars, leads, cat carriers, pet beds, blankets, and other accessories.
  • Dog shampoo and other grooming supplies.
  • Good quality food for small pets like rabbits, Guinea pigs, rats, mice and hamsters.
  • Bedding for small animals.

What sort of things can’t pet food banks use?

There are a number of things that people donate with good intentions but that pet food banks cannot use; and if you bought them deliberately, will mean wasted money that could be better spent on other goods for the pet food bank instead. Here are some of the things that pet food banks cannot use:

  • Very poor-quality food for any animal; the type of bottom-end food ranges that are offered in Pound shops or low-cost supermarkets. These tend to have low nutritional value and are often bulked out and contain colourants and other ingredients that disagree with the digestive system of many pets that eat them, which is the last thing a struggling pet owner needs to contend with.
  • Home-made dog treats or foods cannot be used either.
  • Food products that are not designed specifically for pets, like donations of meat and so on.
  • Opened or unsealed packets of pet food, even if unused; such as if your own pet disliked it.
  • Out of date foods or those with no expiry date on the label.
  • Prescription pet medications.
  • Homeopathic remedies and supplements.
  • Supermarket brand flea and tick products and collars.
(Article source: Pets 4 Homes)

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