Christmas toy drive for Charlie’s pet food bank conforms to COVID-19 safety protocols

Our pets don’t know we’re in the midst of a global pandemic — but that doesn’t mean they aren’t being affected by it.

Kim Monteith, manager of animal behaviour and welfare for the B.C. SPCA, said: “People in need have a harder time accessing services for themselves and for their pets. Animals are extremely important to people during COVID-19, and during isolation for comfort, interaction, companionship.”

The SPCA has had to curtail some services for those in need with pets, including their annual photos-with-Santa event, but Monteith said they’re determined not to cancel Christmas.

The provincial SPCA has adapted their Christmas toy drive for Charlie’s pet food bank to conform with COVID-19 safety protocols.

“Normally, we would have a table where people could come and choose gifts for their pet, but this year we will be preparing tote bags that we will distribute,” said Monteith.

For the last 20 years the B.C. SPCA has been helping people in need with pets in need through their weekly pet food bank at 543 Powell St., something they’re still able to do with safety protocols in place. But they have had to move their monthly, free DTES veterinary clinics to their main shelter on East 7th Avenue, where people can more easily physically distance. The move has made it harder for those without cars to access the service.

Many clients are homeless, or living in an SRO, or they may simply be someone who has lost their job and needs help supporting the furry friends who support them.

“We hear so many stories of people struggling with things that we don’t have to, who are hanging on to their pet when they themselves have nothing,” said Monteith.

Monteith said staff and volunteers develop meaningful relationships with their clients.

“One man was living outdoors in a vehicle with his dog when I first met him. When he got into housing he told me he put a sign on the door saying, Please call Kim if anything happens to me.’ ”

Many clients have dogs and cats, but rats are very popular.

“Rats are like having a little puppy, they are playful, social, smart, and they stay in your hood when you go out,” said Monteith.

Donations of new or gently used pet toys and clothing can be dropped off at the Vancouver B.C. SPCA at 1205 East 7th Ave. any time up to Dec. 20. Items should be marked for ‘Charlie’s’.

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