St. John's animal charity's pet food bank seeing spike in demand

Cat food is in high demand at the Heavenly Creatures pet food bank in St. John's. (Nick Ward/CBC - image credit)
Cat food is in high demand at the Heavenly Creatures pet food bank in St. John's. (Nick Ward/CBC - image credit)
Nick Ward/CBC
Nick Ward/CBC

A charity aiming to help animals in need in Newfoundland and Labrador says it's seeing an increase in demand at its pet food bank.

In addition to housing and fostering animals in need, Heavenly Creatures in St. John's provides a food bank where struggling pet owners can pick up food for their animals.

Co-founder Jessica Rendell says Heavenly Creatures gives away tonnes of food each year. However, more people are in need of assistance than ever before.

"I think like a lot of charities are saying, our requests for help absolutely have increased," said Rendell.

"We've always had requests from low-income people for help. Now, we're seeing some middle-income people as well, having trouble keeping up with food bills and veterinary bills for their pets and still being able to meet their heat bills."

Rendell attributes the increase in demand to the rising cost of living, coupled with the financial struggles many experienced because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the organization is eager to help as many pets as possible, it isn't an easy task.

"We receive no government funding," said Rendell.

"Essentially, we keep going purely because of the kindness of strangers. It's mostly just kind individuals. Our average donations are anywhere from $20 to $100. We always say that we 20-dollar our way every year to what we need to keep us going."

Nick Ward/CBC
Nick Ward/CBC

It costs nearly $300,000 annually to keep the charity running, she said.

Because of the lack of funding, Heavenly Creatures regularly appeals on social media in search of food and donations for veterinary bills for animals in its care.

"We did another appeal [Friday] night because we realized we were quite low on wet food again. The response [on Saturday] has been great. We love seeing the community rallying, coming together to help us keep all these poor animals fed," said Rendell.

In the lead up to the holidays, Heavenly Creatures is also running a Christmas pet food and donation drive at its offices in St. John's. The drive will run from Dec. 10-23.

Good people doing good work

People from all walks of life find themselves at Heavenly Creatures in need of assistance.

After being told about "some good people doing good work," Stephanie Roberts turned to the organization when her dog, Maya, required veterinary assistance that she could not afford.

"I almost lost my best friend," said Roberts. "They came through on that. I'm very grateful for that. I appreciate it. I'm sure everybody appreciates what they're doing here."

She said the charity is "the place to go" for those who need support.

"It's not every day that you see people helping other people with their animals," said Roberts.

"There's always a place to go, food banks for people to go, but who do you go to when you need help for your animals?

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