How a doggy food bank helped me keep my beloved pets

Chelsea the staffie and Sid the pug are part of the family for Jessica Swadling, but she's had times recently where she's struggled to feed them.

When an error with her benefits left her short of cash - she turned to a pet food bank for help.

"It's not easy. It's really not," she said.

"Everything's gone up. Everything's costing twice as much.

"Obviously taxes and stuff, vet feeds, fleeing, worming.

"If we didn't have help from the bank they wouldn't have eaten, cos we just didn't have the money. Everyone, everyone struggles. Everyone.

"And yeah if you're struggling, don't be ashamed to reach out, you know, there's help out there, so take it."

Jessica was desperate to keep her pug, Sid

Jessica, from Maidstone in Kent, reached out to the recently-opened pet food bank in Tovil, is one of several set up by the Dogs Trust - with the mission of keeping families and dogs together.

"We give them about a week's worth of food in a great big bag and they can take it away," says manager Lesley Dean-Springett.

"There's no stigma attached to it. We don't ask them any other questions apart from what their dog likes, what their dog needs.

"We realise that a dog is your best friend and with the way things are going at the moment, if people are scared that they can't afford their dog, then they're gonna give it up and we don't want them to do that, we want them to keep their dog with them."

Their help has allowed Jessica to keep her dogs, and she's not alone.

The Dog's Trust charity shop in Maidstone

Last year the Trust had over 50,000 enquiries from people who felt that they might need to hand their dog over.

"Things are really tough for families," says Lyndsey, "and anecdotally, we know that families will go without food themselves to feed their dogs.

"We just want to get the message across that we're here to help, we're here to support."

The Dogs Trust has set up banks across the country. In the south, there are depots in Canterbury, Newbury and Salisbury as well as Maidstone.

The charity says the banks are still in the early stages - but they've already helped over 100 families - and expect this number to rise.