A pet food bank has seen a soar in demand to help feed animals in households across Northern Ireland amid the coronavirus pandemic.
7th Heaven Animal Rescue Trust in Co Antrim has been running a pet food bank since 2014 to help those in financial difficulty feed their animals.
Heather McMurray, from the charity, said requests have increased since the coronavirus pandemic started.
The food bank was initially forced to close but was allowed to reopen following social distancing rules on April 10.
Ms McMurray told the PA news agency that some owners have considered giving up their pets for worries about how to feed them after losing their jobs, and revealed some owners have gone without food themselves.
“We’ve only just started up again but, for example, this time last year, from the beginning of April to April 15, we’d provided food for 16 animals. From April 10 this year, we’ve given out for 16 animals and have requests for 52 more. And that’s not even including those we regularly supply,” she said.
“We’ve got people who have the Covid-19 virus and are being treated, some who are housebound, some self-isolating, as well as quite a few waiting to receive their first universal credit payment after losing their jobs.
“It’s really important that people can hold on to their pets, this is the time when they are already stressed, health being threatened, unsure about the future and their jobs, and then the thought they may not be able to feed their animal.
“There’s actually one person we know of who was getting foodbank food and feeding it to their animals so they were half-starved themselves. They’d hardly eaten for two to three weeks because they were giving their two dogs the food.”
The charity normally relies on receiving supplies via donation points in a supermarket and a pet food shop.
However, those donations are currently down just as demand is soaring.
“That has dried up due to the initial limits placed on how many items people could buy in the supermarket and they really needed to get food for their own animals,” she said.
“Then people started losing their jobs and were unsure about their money.
“The charity had been pretty much self-funding but that dried up overnight.
“We’ve now found a regular supplier and we can pretty much get what we need.”
7th Heaven also rehomes animals but has had to close its doors to new arrivals due to the pandemic.
“Even in emergencies I doubt there would be any charities able to take any in at this present time because they are not able to get them back out again,” she said.
“We’ve had three or four people asking about handing in animals, but with help feeding them have agreed to hold on to them until we come through this.”