How a food bank is helping homeless pet owners in Kamloops | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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How a food bank is helping homeless pet owners in Kamloops

Angie Morris is one of many temporary homeless people across Kamloops, but the two things that make her tough times a little easier, are her dogs — Abby and Sparky.
April 20, 2018 - 3:00 PM

KAMLOOPS - It’s a situation she thought she’d never be in — especially with two dogs.

For as long as she can remember, Angie Morris always promised herself she would never get any animal unless she had a place to call home. About ten years ago she was confident she was finally in a good spot and got the two dogs she always wanted.

Back then she was working and could afford rent and it was a natural transition to adopt her dogs Abby and Sparky. But two years ago, things took a turn and Morris lost her job and eventually lost her home.

“I refused to get a dog until I owned my house but the situation being, I ended up losing my home,” she says. “The last thing I want to do is give up a my dogs because I can’t find a place."

Morris has been homeless since October 2017.

“It’s been a real struggle, especially with the fact that I have pets,” she says.

Morris is one of 200,000 Canadians that experience temporary homelessness every year. According to a report by Homeless Hub, that number is predicted to be higher, as some people might not turn to a shelter, out of fear of potentially having to surrender their pet.

Morris is one of those people.

She considers herself lucky to have a friend watching out for her and her dogs by paying for a stay at a local motel, but she knows this won’t last for long.

“I am struggling. I feel like a lousy pet owner,” she says.

Bonnie McBride with Kamloops’s first pet food bank, Four Paws Food Bank, says it’s important to recognize the significance of pets to the homeless population. The food bank has been operating for about a year and a half.

“The people we deal with everyday, despite the fact that they literally have nothing, the pets are the most important part of their life,” she says, adding most of the time owners will feed their pets before eating themselves.

McBride says on Sunday, April 29, they are hosting their first free vet and wellness clinic.

“We have been working for a while to create this clinic,” McBride says.

Last month, was the first time pet ownership was included in the National Point-in-Time count conducted by 60 communities across Canada to measure homelessness. McBride says this information was essential to figure out if a free vet clinic was needed in Kamloops.

“Last year they didn’t count pets and this is the first year pet ownership was counted,” she says. “We know from the Stuart Wood shelter, there is a demand for this service from homeless pet owners."

The pet food bank has been fundraising and partnering with organizations around the community to provide this service and handing out vouchers to individuals who would benefit.

“This is really for clients of social service agencies,” she says.

McBride says last year when wildfire evacuees were staying in Kamloops they saw an increase in the number of homeless animals.

“Having the wildfire pets here last summer made this service more urgent,” she says. “We had more unvaccinated pets in the community, lots of dogs with worm infestations.”

The pet food bank works directly with shelters in the area. McBride says at many of the city's shelters this past winter, there wasn’t one day where she saw there wasn’t an animal present.

“I don’t think we had day from Oct. 3 to March 31 that we didn’t have pets in our care staying in our shelters,” she says.

All of the services offered at the vet clinic on April 29 will be free. Some of the services will include vaccinations, deworming, exams, prescriptions, ear cleaning, training consulting and pet supplies.

McBride says it has been a lot of work but is happy they are finally able to offer this service.

"This is our pilot program and I know it certainly won't be our last," she says.

Although it hasn’t been easy not having a home with her dogs, Morris says she couldn’t do it without them.

“If I didn’t have them with me, I would just lose it,” Morris says. “They are your kids they are all that you have.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Karen Edwards or call (250) 819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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