VICTORIA -- With many people out of work and finding that money is tight, some are finding it a struggle to feed their pets.

To help ease the burden for pet owners, the B.C. SPCA in Victoria has opened a “pet food bank” at its shelter on Napier Lane.

The goal is to help keep people and their pets together at a time when companionship from an animal is needed more than ever.

“We know that the COVID-19 crisis has put even more financial pressure on many families,” said B.C. SPCA Victoria branch manger Annie Prittie-Bell.

“People tell us that they’ll choose their pets first and we don’t want them to have to,” she said.

The animal shelter has operated a “drop in” food program for more than eight years, but was forced to close due to the coronavirus at the end of March.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the rescue agency says it has seen an increase in demand for pet food.

“It doesn’t matter that you have never used a food bank before or that you haven’t had that need before. If something in the pandemic has hit you and you need to support your pets, that’s what we’re there for,” said Prittie-Bell.

“We can provide the services so people can keep taking care of themselves, stay strong and healthy and hopefully safe,” she said.

The pet food bank is open at the B.C. SPCA Victoria branch located at 3150 Napier Lane every Wednesday between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.

Cash donations for the food bank can be made online here. Pet food donations can be dropped off at the shelter on Monday to Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.