P.A. one of the first Sask. communities to provide pet-friendly warmup space for those struggling with homelessness

This winter, the Prince Albert Food Bank is offering a warmup shelter for people struggling with homelessness that own pets. (Herald file photo)

Food Bank in need of pet donations as a cold winter creeps up on province

The Saskatchewan SPCA is partnering with the Prince Albert Food Bank to provide a pet-friendly temporary shelter for people dealing with homelessness.

The Saskatchewan SPCA believes it’s one of the first in the province. The non-profit and Food Bank are trying the idea out to see how much of a need there is for a temporary shelter that permits animals.

Most shelters and warmup spaces do not allow pets for various reasons, including the risk of dog bites and lack of space. That’s according to Community Relations Coordinator Josh Hourie.

“What we have heard actually is that people don’t want to surrender their pets and so they do take measures, I guess we can call them, to try and keep their pets with them at all times,” he said.

Prince Albert Food Bank Executive Director Kim Scruby agreed: “Thinking about it from a homeless person’s point of view, if they had the ability to go in and warm up somewhere, but their pet couldn’t come in with them, it’s unlikely they’d go in.”

He said last winter, about five people came into the Food Bank with pets.

“I think once we start seeing the nasty side of winter show up, I wouldn’t be surprised if we are fairly busy for it.”

Scruby said the Food Bank has dedicated a separate room to the pet-friendly warmup space.

It currently holds a few kennels from the Saskatchewan SPCA, but will soon house more pet necessities thanks to the Warming Hearts & Paws campaign.

The Saskatchewan SPCA is asking for donations of pet food, jackets, boots, leashes, collars, beds and other animal accessories in Prince Albert, Saskatoon and North Battleford. You can drop off donations at the Prince Albert Food Bank, but the SPCA is working on other drop-off spots across the city.

Hourie said the initiative began after they came across a heart-wrenching story that occurred in Montreal.

“A homeless individual was trying to seek shelter to escape the cold in that city and while there was shelter available for him, they did not permit animals, and so he didn’t want to leave his dog behind out on the street so he chose to remain with his dog. And, very sadly, his dog actually passed away in his arms,” explained Hourie.

“That got us thinking that there might be a need there for some assistance.”

In February of this year—when the temperatures would dip to a bitter -40 C—the Saskatchewan SPCA launched the campaign for the first time in Saskatoon.

After hundreds of pounds of dog food and several donations of pet accessories, members decided to do it again and expand to other cities.

In the Point-in-Time (PIT) count study, the province does not currently keep track of how many people struggling with homelessness have pets. In Toronto, however, he said it’s about 20 per cent.

Hourie said the Saskatchewan SPCA is working with their partner organizations to collect concrete data on the topic.

He said they’re partnering with human welfare organizations for the Warming Hearts & Paws campaign because animal shelters are usually in a remote area of the city that isn’t as accessible.

Hourie said to keep an eye on the Saskatchewan SPCA’s social media and website for more locations across Prince Albert you can drop off donations.