N.S. animal shelters offering pet food while facing financial hit of their own

Animal shelters in Nova Scotia are offering support to those who cannot afford pet food during the COVID-19 closures, even as the non-profits brace for huge hits to their own bottom lines.

Both the SPCA and Bide Awhile have pet food available for families in need.

"We've definitely received some calls this week," said Melissa McPhee, communications co-ordinator for Bide Awhile, which runs a shelter in Dartmouth. N.S. "Especially during this COVID-19 virus, a lot of people are losing money and can't afford to feed their animals."

While the animal organizations are offering help, they also find themselves in the unusual position of turning away volunteers and donations like food and toys.

At Bide Awhile, a group of four core staff are making sure the animals at its shelter are OK. The SPCA is also trying to limit the number of people in its six shelters.

"The most important thing to us, of course, is keeping our staff safe so they're able to continue the provide the care we need them to provide to the animals. So that involves the doors being locked, appointments only," said Heather Woodin, director of programs with the Nova Scotia SPCA.

George Mortimer/CBC

The health of employees is essential, in part because they may be called upon to help with the pets of families who become sick, Woodin said.

"We are a bit worried about how busy it's going to be in just a few months. That's when we're really going to need foster homes."

The SPCA is continuing to allow adoptions, but all are by appointment only. Woodin said that will help money continue to flow, but it's a drop in the bucket compared to what the organization is losing.

"Unfortunately, we had to close some aspects of our business like the thrift stores, which is a major fundraising stream for the SPCA."

Woodin estimates in two weeks alone, it will mean a more than $30,000 loss to the SPCA.

"We know this situation is really going to be difficult for us, losing that very important revenue stream, not knowing how long that will be gone."

Bide Awhile is also nervous about its future finances, as three of its biggest fundraisers of the year have now been postponed.

McPhee said the loss has been lessened by support from the public. Once they announced people can access free pet food, others chipped in.

"We've also received some donations just from people wanting to give back."

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