Wilder Harrier creates ‘Pet Pantries’ to help with rising pet food costs

Who: Pet food brand Wilder Harrier, with Berners Bowie Lee for strategy and creative, and Glossy for PR.

What: “Pet Pantries,” a new community-focused initiative providing free Wilder Harrier pet food and treats for people who might be struggling to feed their pet as the cost of pet ownership—like so many aspects of post-pandemic life—continue to soar.

When & Where: There are currently four Pet Pantries spread out across various businesses (and one private residence) in Toronto, although the company hopes to make it a city-wide initiative. Berners Bowie Lee is supporting the program through social media ads, as well as guerilla-style stickers placed where dogs tend to gather.

Why: The pandemic led to a sharp rise in pet ownership, with the Canadian Animal Health Institute reporting earlier this year that the dog population grew by an estimated 200,000 between 2020 and 2022, while the cat population grew by 400,000 during the same period. Today, 60% of Canadian households now own at least one cat or dog.

But pet ownership has also become increasingly costly, with a recent report from online pet market Rover.com pegging the annual cost of dog ownership in Canada at between $460 and $1,340 per year, with food comprising the single biggest expense.

The rising cost of pet food have led to stories of people rehoming their pet or giving it to a shelter. Stories of people abandoning pet in parks and public spaces—sometimes with a note explaining that they can no longer afford to properly care for them—are not not uncommon.

Wilder Harrier is committed to informing people about what it calls the “the good, the bad, and the gross” of  pet ownership, while also providing solutions. “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?'” said director of brand marketing, Caitlin Benn.

How: Working with Berners Bowie Lee and Toronto mural artist Elise Conlin, Wilder Harrier created the four Pet Pantries housing some of its various products. The company plans to stock the pantries with food and treats for the next two months, and is also inviting people to bring their dogs to the locations to enjoy its “treats of the week.”

In addition, it is soliciting donations of  unexpired pet food stored in a sealed, labeled container, as well as lightly used or unused items—including pet waste bags, pet toys, leashes, etc.

Berners Bowie Lee is promoting the Pet Pantries through social media ads, and has has also created stickers bearing messages like “Inflation’s a b!tch for dogs too” and “Hungry like a wolf. Or a cockapoo?” accompanied by the message “Get free dog food” and the location of a nearby Pet Pantry. The stickers are being placed in dog-friendly locations, such as on fire hydrants or lampposts.

And we quote: “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. — Mike Murray, co-founder, Berners Bowie Lee

Chris Powell