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Animal lovers set up pet food bank

Pet owners struggling with the cost of living can now access food and treats for their animal friends, reports Victoria Munro

Waltham Forest Pet Food Bank
Waltham Forest Pet Food Bank

Local animal lovers have set up a pet food bank for Waltham Forest after seeing a rise in people abandoning their pets.

Shelagh Savage and Leigh Smith co-founded Waltham Forest Pet Food Bank at the start of this year and now hand out donations fortnightly from Tesco supermarkets in Highams Park and Leytonstone.

Shelagh is already many resident’s first port of call for animal-related issues as she volunteers to reunite missing pets with their owners through Facebook group Waltham Forest 4 Dogs.

After noticing a sharp spike in animals being abandoned, she and Leigh theorised it was due to the cost-of-living crisis making pet food a luxury some households could not afford.

Shelagh told the Echo: “It became apparent to us at the end of last year that people were struggling to hold onto their pets with the cost-of-living crisis.

“More people than normal were asking us to rehome their pets and more animals were getting dumped, especially small furries like rabbits or guinea pigs but even things like snakes and ferrets.

“If money is in short supply and you have to choose between feeding your children or your animals then, speaking as a mother, there can be no contest; the animals will go out without.”

The pair approached their local Tesco in Highams Park, who agreed to let them leave out a trolley to collect donations of pet food and accessories from local residents for distribution every fortnight.

The Highams Park pet food bank opened in January and the pair set up a second location at Tesco in Leytonstone in March so those in the south of the borough would not have to travel.

Between the two locations, Shelagh said they have 110 clients in total, who can each receive free food for up to two animals, meaning they are “potentially feeding 220 animals a fortnight”.

She said: “We don’t want to encourage people to go out and get more animals thinking the pet food bank will accommodate them, that’s not the intention. It’s supposed to be a top-up.

“We are very grateful to Tescos and the people of Waltham Forest, who have continued to put donations in even though everybody is really struggling right now. I think it’s a wonderful thing for the community to do for each other.”

Find out more about Waltham Forest Pet Food Bank:
Visit
walthamforest.gov.uk/health-and-wellbeing/support-and-community-services-your-area/waltham-forest-pet-food-bank