Debi Emmett, aged 48, from Cardiff launched the Pet Food Bank Service charity in 2017 – and this year, has provided more than 48,000 meals for pets in need
Image: Debi Emmett)
Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year for many people. For others, it brings money worries, and having to make the tough decision as to whether to heat their home, or eat their next meal.
Four years ago, Debi Emmett decided to take action and do something to alleviate the stress for pet owners who found themselves in hard times, by setting up a pet food bank service.
And this year alone, she’s provided 48,000 meals to animals across South Wales, up 9,000 the previous year.
The 48-year-old said: “A friend told me about dog’s homes being overrun with elderly dogs because everyone wanted puppies. I thought it was terrible, and as it’s usually older people who adopt older dogs, these are the kinds of people who already struggle with the heat or eating issue.
“But these dogs are their worlds and in order to keep them on sofas and out of shelters, we started up the pet food bank.”
Debi, from Cardiff, started the charity solo, and would collect and deliver pet food in the area, but Covid-19 brought new challenges, changing the way the food bank operated.
Instead, she began delivering to other food banks with established users, who were elated to discover that there was dog food in their food parcels.
Debi’s heart broke when she heard a story from one woman who was struggling financially, and resorted to feeding her dog pasta.
The charity founder said: “One lady said ‘I have nothing in the house so I fed my dog pasta – I know it’s no good for them but it’s all I had’.
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“That’s really sad, because it’s all she had as well.
”Another told me ‘My dog is my family, it’s really good to know that there’s help there for them.’”
And on one occasion while delivering to a Swansea foodbank, Debi couldn’t unpack the tins of food faster than they were being snapped up by people in need.
The pet food bank service helps people in financial crises, the homeless, and throughout the pandemic, many furloughed workers.
The 48-year-old added: “It’s not just homeless people we help. In the pandemic there were airline pilots who thought they had a job for life, suddenly found themselves out of work and lost all their income.
“It’s not necessarily people who can’t afford their animals, it’s people who found themselves in a difficult situation through no fault of their own.”
And Christmas is set to be an incredibly busy time for Debi, who spends up to 90 hours a week collecting and delivering food to outlets in Cardiff, Newport, Caerphilly, Swansea, Gilfach Goch, Merthyr and Bargoed.
But after a year like no other, it’s set to be a festive season like no other for the charity, too, with Debi expecting more and more demand for pet food throughout December.
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She said: “We have provided more than 48,000 meals for pets this year, and the sad part is, that could have easily been doubled if we weren’t restricted by our storage size.
“Normally in November and December we don’t get asked for that much food, instead people are donating it because they’re feeling generous, and then it gets sent out to families in January.
“But this year we’re expecting a lot of people in need of our service at Christmas, and we need that generosity to continue so we have enough food for December, January and February.”
As well as pet food, Debi also collects coats for homeless dogs, as well as leads, collars, harnesses and blankets for pet owners who might need them.
The animal lover – who has a rescue French bulldog, called Ruby – hopes to open a café in the future, complete with doggy play area and extra storage, where service users will be able to socialise.
She added: “Next year I’m looking to start fundraising for a café, but property in Cardiff is quite expensive. If we can do it, hopefully it means we could double what we’re doing now.”