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Rescue, rehabilitate, rehome: How animal welfare organizations bring people and pets together

Rescue, rehabilitate, rehome: How animal welfare organizations bring people and pets together hero image

So many animals arrive at their forever homes thanks to the dedication of rescue and fostering organizations across Canada. These specialized communities of dedicated pet lovers pour their energy into the rescue, rehabilitation, and rehoming of animals looking for love and care.

People who work with these organizations are the first to tell you that it isn’t always easy work, but satisfaction from helping a pet in need is extremely rewarding.

“Ultimately, it's seeing the happily ever after,” says Taylor Huestis, Communications and Development Officer at the Nova Scotia SPCA. “The befores can be really difficult and challenging and very emotional. But seeing [pets] afterwards, happy with their family and all settled in, it makes it all worth it.”

To learn more about animal rescue work and how pets can find their perfect family fit, we connected with a few of the people and organizations that Pet Valu supports through our Companions for Change program.

Nova Scotia SPCA animal transport vehicle

On the road rescue efforts

The Nova Scotia SPCA is one of several rescue organizations that brings pets in from across the province and abroad.

“If we're finding that one shelter is overwhelmed or overrun, we're able to move those animals to free up that space and to free up that staff,” explains Huestis. Their SPCA even launched an international rescue operation, bringing animals across the Canada-U.S. border via customized transport that’s funded by Companions for Change.

“We really wouldn't have been able to launch the international pet transfer program if it wasn't for Pet Valu,” Huestis says.

“The funding allowed us to invest in a transport vehicle that we're really proud of. It has extra soundproofing to drown out the road noise, extra cushioning to soften up the bumps whenever you're driving. It has a separate air conditioning unit for the back and two cameras, as well as built-ins that are attached to the kennels so that the animals have a safe and cozy roadtrip.”

One lucky pup named Zoey got to ride in the rescue van all the way from Louisiana to her new family in Nova Scotia.

“To celebrate International Dog Day last year, we completed our first transport and Zoey was one of 14 dogs who made the journey. Before arriving in our care Zoey suffered a painful home ear crop,” Huestis says, referencing the practice of cutting off the floppy part of a dog's ear. “But with Pet Valu’s support, Zoey got a second chance and a local family found a healthy and happy best friend.”

“We know that this is really going to improve animal welfare,” she says of the ability to transport animals out of overcrowded shelters. “By reducing overcrowding for others, it allows them to focus on the development of best practices and new programs to improve animal welfare like we have been able to do here in Nova Scotia.”

SPCA kings - no pet left behind

No pet left behind

“We are proudly open admission, which means that we will never turn away an animal in need. We accept animals into our care regardless of their age, health or breed,” says Huestis.

And the animals who require shelter and temporary fostering aren’t always coming in because they’ve been neglected or abandoned, either. In fact, the Nova Scotia SPCA launched a unique program that offers temporary support and assistance to pet parents who need help due to difficult circumstances such as a hospital stay, homelessness, or if they are fleeing domestic violence.

“This was really great, to be able to help those pet owners that were in crisis situations and provide that support when they really need it,” Husestis says. Instead of surrendering a beloved pet permanently, Nova Scotians in these difficult situations can leave their animal with the SPCA until they’re ready to be reunited.

Fostering and rehabilitation: The path to adoption

For organizations like the Nova Scotia SPCA, rescue is only the first step in the process of finding a forever home for a pet.

Fostering and rehabilitation — both physical and psychological — are an integral part of their operations too. “Some pets need to heal physically, others emotionally. In our shelters and with our trained dedicated foster families, we work around the clock to help rebuild their trust and teach them that humans are kind and loving.”

As an example, Huestis shared the story of a cat named Phoebe.

“Her story touched every single piece of what we do here at the SPCA,” she says. “She originally came into our care because she was shot and the bullet went back through her back leg into her front leg. Animal Cruelty rescued her and then started an investigation to try to figure out who did this and why and to try to bring that justice to light.”

Huestis says that Phoebe then had to go in for emergency surgery and her leg was amputated, but that it didn’t slow her down a bit. She went into foster care while she recovered and the foster family absolutely adored her. Then, the same day she was put up for adoption, a loving family immediately scooped her up.

If you’re left in awe of the breadth and depth of the work that rescue organizations do, you’re not alone. “I think it took a full year of being here with SPCA to really fully grasp the scope of all of what we offer here for families and for the communities,” says Huestis. “I used to always just think of SPCA as a network of shelters and didn't realize all the behind-the-scenes hard work.”

For her, that first year on the job brought more happiness than she could have imagined. “My cheeks were sore because I was smiling so big and it's still like that to this day, five years later,” she says. “I think that's a true testament to how amazing it is to work in animal welfare.”

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