These organizations are on a mission to support animal welfare in groundbreaking ways
If you have a pet, you know their day-to-day needs are pretty simple: they want to be loved, fed, and cared for. Some of the animal welfare organizations we support via our Companions for Change program, step in to do just that for animals in need.
But some groups also approach care from a different angle, working to support communities and animals through educational initiatives or strategies to keep pets and the people who love them together in times of crisis.
Here are two amazing examples of community outreach and support.
Educating the next generation of animal advocates
In Northern Ontario, North Bay and District Humane Society’s Executive Director Liam Cullen is helping to nurture a new generation of animal lovers through his organization’s summer day camp.
Launched in 2019, Cullen says that the camp “had hundreds of kids come and spend time with our pets and learn about what really happens at the Humane Society and how to be a responsible pet owner.”
When the pandemic hit, the organization took the camp online. “We had a virtual day camp for kids to show them what we do here at the Humane Society and some of the pets that are in our care and some of the things that they need to be able to thrive and find their loving forever homes.”
The program has resumed on-site gatherings, and Cullen is thrilled to have the local community return to the Humane Society building.
“The mission of our organization is to provide, protect, and educate. We wanted to kind of lift the veil on what we do here at the Humane Society and give people a behind the scenes look at some of the things that we offer,” he says. Ultimately, Cullen hopes the program will inspire young people to seek careers in animal welfare.
“Some of the difficulties that our profession has — in terms of lack of veterinary care, lack of veterinary technicians, or lack of qualified staff to be able to do some of the work that we do — to be able to open that door early and give kids access, that might lead them into a future career in the animal care field.”
Keeping pets and their human parents together
“Nothing feels better than helping somebody stay with their pet and that pet stay with their family, their person, their environment,” says Melissa David, the founder of Alberta-based Parachutes for Pets.
In her work with pets and pet parents, David doesn’t use the word home. “A lot of our clients, unfortunately, don't have a home. But as long as those pets are with their owner, that's home to them.”
David started her organization with the goal of preventing people from being forced to surrender pets because they can no longer afford to provide them with food, vet care, or grooming.
Parachutes for Pets offers a food bank, emergency pet hampers that are customized to geography and climate, vaccine and wellness clinics, hygiene services, and transportation services so that pets and pet owners are able to access these needs.
Based in Calgary, David frequently runs pet food and supplies to communities north of the city, adding that she “can also transport any pet back to a spay and neuter program or anything like that. I'm helping get pets to their appointments, because right now, the number one barrier that has been identified to getting pet care (other than finances, of course) is transportation, it is very tough for people to actually get to appointments with their pets.”
Her ability to deliver supplies to communities that need them and bring pets to healthcare appointments comes courtesy of her GMC Canyon — a vehicle her organization purchased with a grant from Companions for Change.
“We drive out on some pretty unpredictable roads in all weather,” she explains. “This truck has four-wheel drive and fantastic tires, which is a huge safety thing for us. We can load it up with supplies and I feel safe.”
“When we got word that we got the Pet Valu grant, I cried,” says David. “I still tear up when I think about it, because prior to having this amazing vehicle I would have to cram my little vehicle full of items to the point where I probably shouldn't have been driving.”
Since launching Parachutes for Pets, David has gained a deep understanding of the bond between humans and their animals, which is why she focuses on underserved groups whose pets are a critical factor for their mental health.
“We quickly found out that there were certain groups that were much more in need than others and their bond with their pet was so important,” she explains, citing veterans, the unhoused, victims of domestic violence, and seniors who’ve seen the cost of living rise while their pensions remain static.
“We also assist children who are transitioning out of their homes into foster care,” she adds. “Historically, they can't take their pets with them. So we have a program that we're so proud of — we cover anything that allows them to take their pets,” she says, including food, licensing, and vaccinations.
“I am humbled by how we've grown, how much people support us, and [how they] have allowed us to help,” David says. “I knew that we had to create a community that earned their trust. And if we didn't abuse that trust, they would know they could turn to us, regardless of what was happening.”