Community Pet Pantries Have Arrived in Toronto to Help Feed and Care for Pets
Many community resources have popped up to help feed Canadians affected by rising grocery prices, and now there’s help for pet parents.
The pandemic saw a sharp rise in pet adoption, with 60% of Canadians now owning a dog or a cat. But the skyrocketing cost of food and grocery items—particularly pet food—has left many people struggling to feed themselves and their pets.
To provide some relief to pet owners, Montreal pet food company Wilder Harrier is launching dedicated Pet Pantries—the equivalent of community fridges, except for pets.
Wilder Harrier is stocking the four pantries with food and treats for any pet parent who needs them. Customers in each location are also encouraged to bring their dogs to enjoy Wilder Harrier “treats of the week”.
The company has pledged to fill each Pet Pantry for the next two months. However, they hope the program will expand into a city-wide initiative, with communities stocking the pantries to help combat the rising pet food costs that are impacting people across all economic strata.
To provide further support to pet owners in need, the pantries are also welcoming donations of any unexpired pet food stored in a sealed, labeled container. Lightly used or unused items, including pet waste bags, pet toys, leashes, etc. are also encouraged.
“As a company, we don’t shy away from telling the truth about pet ownership—the good, the bad, and the gross. But we’re also about providing solutions for pet parents,” said Caitlin Benn, Director of Brand Marketing at Wilder Harrier. “One of the biggest challenges facing all pet owners is inflation, so it felt like a natural step for us to look at the problem and ask ‘What can we do to help in a way that’s authentic to our brand and our values?’”
The Initiative is launching with three businesses in Toronto, as well as one residential location. Participating businesses include Black Lab Brewing in Leslieville, Savoury Grounds in the Upper Beach and Tiny’s General Store in Seaton Village, while the fourth pantry is at 44 Follis Ave. in the Annex.
The need for these pet pantries has become acute in recent months. While grocery prices have risen by about 10% since the beginning of the year, those increases have been drastically outpaced by the price increases for pet food. The price of dog food alone, for example, has increased by an average of 45.5% compared to 2020, three times higher than the typical increase of 5% per year. Despite significant market pressures, Wilder Harrier has never increased the price of its dog food since launching in 2019.
The prices have led nearly one-quarter (24%) of pet owners to consider rehoming or giving up their pets to a shelter. Heartbreaking stories of people abandoning their pets in parks and other public spaces, with a note explaining they simply can’t afford to properly care for them any longer, are not uncommon.
As a brand committed to addressing all aspects of pet ownership, the pet food company wants to provide support during one of the most challenging times to be a pet parent.
Toronto creative agency Berners Bowie Lee developed the pet pantries in partnership with Wilder Harrier, working with muralist Elise Conlin to bring them to life. They are being promoted through social media, as well as grassroots partnerships and guerrilla advertising strategically placed in places where dogs tend to stop and investigate, such as fire hydrants.
“Often, you can’t see poverty, but inflation is having a profound and often hidden effect on all levels of Canadian society,” says Michael Murray, co-founder of Berners Bowie Lee. “We hope that the pantries help address some of the difficulties that people are facing, and we are hopeful that the community will embrace them and help us grow this project with Wilder Harrier.”
About Wilder Harrier:
Wilder Harrier is a Montreal-based pet food company tackling dogs’ allergies, sensitive stomachs, picky eating, and the health of the environment one unusual ingredient at a time. Crickets, flies, seaweed, and invasive carp aren’t your everyday proteins, but Wilder Harrier is all about finding more sustainable ways to feed pets and help them thrive. Wilder Harrier is a Certified B Corp and proud partner of 1% for the planet, donating 1% of our total annual sales to grassroots environmental groups. www.wilderharrier.com
Title: Community Pet Pantries
Client: Wilder Harrier
Agency: Berners Bowie Lee
Co-founders/Creative Directors: Devon Williamson, Michael Murray
Senior Creative Team: Jess White, Heejae Choi
Business Lead: Dominique Anthony
Producer: BBL Productions
Production Company: Astley Gilbert
Mural Artist: Elise Conlin