EDMONTON -- Thanks to over 700 bags of donated pet food, the Alberta SPCA has begun assisting cat and dog owners in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If you’ve lost your job, you don’t have a paycheck coming in, and you have to make a decision whether you are feeding yourself or your animal, we can help,” said Alberta SPCA Communications Manager Dan Kobe.

The SPCA hopes the program called ‘Help for Animals’ convinces owners to not abandon pets at a shelter due to financial difficulties.

“It’s far easier to provide the food for them to keep the animals on property and its better for the animals,” added Kobe.

“The animal would much rather stay in the home they are used to then to be spending time in a cage at a shelter.”

The food was donated by Purina and Champion and will distributed from three locations to homes across the province.

The SPCA understands that when people suffer financial hardship, their pets suffer as well. But unlike the 2016 Fort McMurray fires or the 2013 flooding in southern Alberta when owners were forced to give up their pets, the SPCA believes animals should be kept at home during the current hardship.

“Bottom line is, we don’t want you to surrender your animals." Kobe said. "if you’re struggling to feed your animals, let us know and we will do our best to help you."

Food could also be found for smaller kinds of pets plus livestock and horses.

“If someone called us and said they didn’t have hay for their horses and their pasture grass hasn’t come in yet, our peace officers can find the hay, and help arrange for it to be delivered.”

Owners can apply for assistance online.