Adoption Woes

Posted by: Kathy Powelson Tags: There is no tags | Categories: News


The issues around responsible rescue, rescue standards, and importing are divisive ones. They are issues that spark strong emotions. Calling for organizations to operate under a minimum set of standards is interpreted by some as a position that is anti-import. But it is not that. It is simply a call for organizations to be responsible in their life-saving efforts—to be transparent and to not cause more harm than good no matter the location of the animals being helped.

Each time we speak out about this issue we risk opening ourselves to criticism. But that is a risk we are willing to take given how important this issue is. Because without any form of sector regulation, there is a very real risk of unethical rescue practices and absolutely no way to hold organizations accountable. The stakes are high. Many people are afraid to come forward or speak publicly about these issues out of a fear of being bullied, harassed, or even sued.

A true story

In July, Karen and her husband adopted what they were told was a one-year-old Chihuahua from a rescue based in the Fraser Valley. The organization did not provide any background checks on Karen and her husband. They paid a $600 adoption fee and took the pup home and named her Velma. When they adopted Velma, she was wearing a little dress. Once they got her home and removed the dress, they realized how bone-thin she was. They quickly realized that she did not seem well.

The next day they took her to their veterinarian where Velma was diagnosed with eye infections in both eyes, an ear infection, and a heart murmur. She had no muscle tone, was underweight, and severely dehydrated. Blood work revealed she had been bitten by a tick, so she has been on doxycycline for well over a month. She was in need of major dental surgery. And the veterinarian also indicated she was likely a senior dog, not one a year old pup.

Velma (left) and sister Daphne

To date, the rescue has provided no financial support to cover the $1,000+ veterinary bill, nor have they even refunded the $600 adoption fee. Once her health has improved, she will need to get dental surgery, which will cost an additional $1,500-2,000.

Velma is lucky because she ended up in a home that has the financial means to provide her with the veterinary care she needs. But what if she hadn’t? Karen has tried to hold this organization accountable, but beyond sharing her story with you, what can she do? There is nowhere for her to go.

She could take this case to small claims court. But when you make the decision to save a life—to adopt a dog from a rescue—you should not have to consider whether or not you have the time and resources to sue the organization if the adoption goes wrong. You should be able to trust that the organization has done its due diligence, that the dog has had a thorough medical examination, and that the organization knows enough about the dog’s behaviour to ensure your home is the right fit. And, if something does go wrong, the organization should be there to fully support you and your dog.

But this is not what happened. Karen and her husband were left completely on their own.

Changing the system

Calls for a more professionalized animal welfare sector have been coming for many years. And it was because of these calls that the Animal Welfare Advisory Network of BC was created.

The Network is a member-based initiative that enables organizations to work together on specific strategies, projects, and initiatives associated with companion animal welfare. One of the first projects the Network is undertaking is our Rescue Standards of Practice with the long-term goal of turning the standards into an accreditation program.

And the change that will bring cannot come soon enough. In the meantime, we have partnered with our colleagues at HugABull Advocacy and Rescue Society to create a checklist of what people can look for to ensure they are working with a reputable rescue organization. (No Puppy Mills Canada also provides a helpful checklist.)

It is unfortunate that the government does not see animal welfare as a priority and that, as a result, we have been left to police ourselves and raise our own funds for this kind of important work. But thankfully, there are compassionate people in our society that can and will take a stand for animals. Because no person should have to go through what Karen and her husband went through. No animal should have to go through what Velma went through. With your help, we’re working towards a future free of these unfortunate adoption woes.


An open letter to PetSmart & PetSmart Charities

Posted by: Kathy Powelson Tags: There is no tags | Categories: News


Dear PetSmart Canada & PetSmart Charities,

We are contacting you as a group of concerned animal welfare organizations in British Columbia. In case you are not familiar with the signatories, below is a brief introduction to each. We would like to begin a dialogue with PetSmart and PetSmart Charities about some practices that have come to our attention. We believe that we all share the interest of protecting animals, supporting your customers to be the best pet guardians they can be, and improving animal welfare in our communities.

Paws for Hope Animal Foundation is a BC based animal welfare organization. Our mission is to lead a new generation of companion animal care and protection, mobilizing our province to target the underlying causes of harm and abandonment, and create sustainable solutions that protect the pets who need us most. In 2017 we established the Animal Welfare Advisory Network of BC. (AWANBC). The purpose of AWANBC is to enable organizations to work together to support strategies around specific projects and initiatives associated with companion animal welfare. Through our work with AWANBC our goal is to professionalize the animal welfare sector, which will include standards of practice.

HugABull Advocacy & Rescue Society has been in operation since 2003, making it one of BC’s most established and respected dog rescue organizations. Our work focuses on the rescue and adoption of bully breed dogs, but we have a wider mandate to promote ethical rescue, responsible ownership, and evidence-based legislation that affects all breeds.

Adoption events

Over the past few years we have seen an increase in adoption events hosted by PetSmart in partnership with local “rescue” organizations. These events are promoted throughout the media and often the event is described as saving death row dogs from Los Angeles or even as far as South Korea. While we applaud the intention to support local rescue organizations and homeless pets, we have serious concerns about the process by which these adoption events are held.

Often the ‘rescue’ participating in the events is bringing dogs in from outside Canada with little to no vetting, or temperament testing, and an adequate decompression period after the stressful journey from another country is not being provided. We know of dogs that have been adopted through your stores that have been sick, injured, aggressive, or seriously stressed by the “mass adoption” model.

Dogs coming from outside of Canada can (and have) brought in diseases that do not exist here, and thus not only threaten other dogs, but also wildlife and in some cases, humans.  These models also put the dogs of your customers at risk. It is a plausible risk that a newly imported dog could be carrying an unknown virus, parasite, or other vector that can be transmitted to other pets or people.  What if another customer was in your store with their pet – particularly if either of them were to be young, immune compromised, or senior?

What about the dogs brought in by the rescues? How does PetSmart ensure that they are not sick, injured, vulnerable or traumatized? A mass adoption event at a busy pet store can be a terrible experience for some dogs.

The actual experience of the mass adoption event concerns us.  Adoptions done on-site, without homechecks, screening, and support, can have impacts that last for years. Dogs can be placed in homes that are not equipped to deal with any behaviour or health issues they may have. This is not fair to the animal; not fair to the family who adopted the dog in good faith; and a serious public health and safety concern.

It has also been brought to our attention that some stores are working with rescue organizations that are importing cats. Canada has a massive cat overpopulation problem, and bringing in more cats does not serve to advance animal welfare and in fact, creates a much bigger problem that many communities are currently struggling to respond to.

Additionally, in stores that physically house cats for long periods, we have questions about the standards of care. We have heard anecdotal reports that cats are kept for long stretches of time in small cages, without opportunities to move around and engage in appropriate feline behaviour. We would like to have the opportunity to confirm the minimum standards of care provided in your stores and what oversight PetSmart takes to ensure they are being met and complied with.

We would be happy to work with you to impose minimum ethical rescue standards for the organizations you partner with. This may mean fewer mass adoption events and fewer dogs to draw people into the store, but it means the dogs that do come would be stable, friendly, and healthy. The adoptable dogs can draw interest and start conversations about the role of the rescue organization, and the adoption itself should occur outside of the event, complete with a full screening, homecheck, and other steps taken to ensure the adoption is an appropriate and successful one for all parties involved.

Sale of small animals

The retail sale of animals is the most difficult issue to align with the principles of animal welfare. It entails the mass breeding/milling of animals, transported thousands of miles across the country to be displayed for sale, and sold by retail staff who have little to no knowledge of the appropriate care of these small animals. There is no mechanism for screening, support, follow-up, or a way to ensure the well-being of the animal when these sales do not work out.

Increasingly, we are seeing jurisdictions ban the retail sale of animals, directing consumers instead to responsible shelters, rescues, or breeders who can take the time to work one-on-one with families in matching them with the perfect pet. These bans started with the retail sale of cats, dogs, and rabbits, but the same logic applies to small animals such as mice, hamsters, gerbils, and fish.

There are many successful pet stores across Canada and the United States that do not sell animals. We wish to open up a dialogue with you regarding whether this practice could be phased out with PetSmart expanding their program of partnering with ethical rescues to encourage responsible adoption in lieu of sale.

Discriminatory policies targeting “pit bull” type dogs

Breed discrimination is denounced by all SPCA and Humane Societies across Canada and the United States, yet many PetSmart stores have policies that directly discriminate against “pit bull” type dogs in their day camp services. Although we are not aware of stores providing day camps in BC, it would be remiss not to point this out.
Behaviour science research, as well as personal experience, tells us that no breed is inherently aggressive.

Additionally, since most dogs in our communities are mixed breeds or of unknown parentage, these types of breed restrictions come down to visual identification of a dog as a “pit bull”, which is both flawed and unreliable.
In our local stores, all breeds are welcome to shop with their owners, take classes, and visit the grooming salon. Every dog is judged by his behaviour, and not by its visual appearance.

We propose that PetSmart adopt breed-neutral, evidence-based policies across the board, and align themselves with organizations as diverse as the BC SPCA, the Canadian Bar Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Canadian and American Kennel Clubs, and every reputable animal welfare and animal professional organization.

Next steps

PetSmart is a flagship store in many of our communities, and PetSmart Charities provides millions of dollars in grant support each year to qualified rescues and shelters, but it is difficult for the animal welfare community to support and leverage this impact while these concerns exist.
We invite you to meet with us to discuss ways we can work together to address these concerns so that together, we can truly make a difference in the lives of companion animals.
Thank you in advance for your consideration and response to our above noted concerns

Kathy Powelson, Executive Director
Paws for Hope Animal Foundation

April Fahr
HugABull Advocacy & Rescue Society 

Good intentions, bad results

Posted by: Kathy Powelson Tags: There is no tags | Categories: News


Good intentions

Imagine a crowded animal shelter—concrete kennels full of stressed out dogs, many with unknown histories and probably an equal amount of unchecked veterinary needs. They’ve been abandoned or surrendered and this shelter is possibly their last opportunity for a second chance. No one wants these dogs to die but there is nowhere left for them to go.

Now picture two buses pull up outside this shelter and the staff inside are told that the would-be saviours “can take as many dogs as our buses can hold and we will find them good homes in Canada.” The shelter staff are elated. They will not have to kill any of the dogs. And so they fill crate after crate with dogs that they believe are now destined for a second chance and a wonderful new life that all dogs deserve.

Visualize these two crate-laden buses driving for 24 hours north to Canada and then straight to a major pet store chain for a massive adoption event—an event that has been promoted widely across the media: Families Scoop Abandoned US Dogs at Langley Adoption Event; 2 bus loads of rescue dogs travelling to Kelowna tomorrow for adoption event.

Bad results

The same crates all the dogs were transferred in are now placed on display at the massive pet store. All of the animals are tired and completely stressed out. Many are barking and lunging, some are shaking uncontrollably. A few others are quite sick and some are even injured. But this reality is lost on the pet store staff and the volunteer rescuers who have neglected to spend any time getting to know even one of the 50 dogs they have just “saved” and delivered—the same people who neglected to provide any veterinary assessments or care in advance of the massive adoption event. As a result, the truth of this neglect is also lost on the line up of people who have come out to see the display of animals.

The excitement and happiness of everyone involved distract from the very obvious trauma these dogs are displaying. Despite the fact that there is little to no information about the histories or health status of these dogs, people line up to adopt them. They all feel good knowing that they are playing a part in saving a dog’s life. And by the end of the weekend, all the dogs will have found a home, the organization is already planning its next trip to the US, and the pet store chain is patting itself on the back for supporting the community.

But how are the families doing with their new pets? A handful of them aren’t able to get anywhere near their new dog because he’s so stressed out that he keeps biting them. One family realizes that their dog has stopped moving because he has a serious injury. Another family is concerned that their dog is not eating and they take her to see their veterinarian only to find out that she has a massive tumour in her stomach. A number of families grow concerned because their dogs are coughing and they worry that the cough will spread to their other pets.

The dangerous lure of saving lives

Knowing you have helped to rescue an animal from harm, distress, or even death is an amazing feeling and it is easy to get caught up in the excitement that these massive adoption events promote. But the reality is that many of these dogs do not actually end up in a better place. Because their needs were not assessed before they were adopted out, they are often placed in inappropriate homes. As a result, they are either placed back into the rescue system or they are cared for in ways that only exacerbate their unknown trauma. Even worse, some families that unknowingly adopt a dog with health issues become faced with veterinary expenses they had not planned for and ultimately choose to euthanize their new pet because they are unable to pay for the care that is required.

We can do better.

There is no doubt that adoptable dogs die simply because so many shelters in the US and across the globe are completely full. And it is true that there are often homes available in Canada for these dogs. But the solution isn’t as simple as the story above. There must be standards in place for how animals are transported and there must be requirements for health and behaviour assessments prior to those animals being made available for adoption. There are real public health and safety risks to people, wildlife, and other domestic animals when dogs are brought in from outside of Canada with no quarantine periods or behaviour assessments. For example, a new strain of distemper recently arrived in North America from a dog imported from South Korea.

We must do better.

Over the years, I have written a lot about the structural and systemic flaws of the animal welfare system and the fractured, unregulated, unaccountable, and underfunded environment that has been created as a result. Even though many, many of us have similar goals, the system remains fragmented and our work is inhibited by the difficulty of developing valuable partnerships and alliances. There are a number of reasons for this.

Domestic pets are the only living creatures that do not have governing bodies regulating their welfare. All levels of government have abdicated their responsibility for the welfare of animals to the community. With no provincial or federal funding to support the protection and well-being of animals, the responsibility lies upon individuals to organize themselves. Not only are animal welfare and rescue organizations expected to sustain their operations without financial support from our governments, but they also operate without any formal regulations or accountability.

A commitment to do better

In 2017, the Animal Welfare Advisory Network of B.C. (AWANBC) was formed to respond to these systemic issues. Since then, our growing network of committed and passionate members has been working towards creating a more professional and accountable animal welfare system. Over the past year, we have been developing rescue standards of practice which will help guide organizations in their operations, establish an accreditation process, and provide the general public with a way to adopt pets through organizations that are committed to operating responsibly.

There are well over 170 community-based rescue organizations in BC. For the average person, it can be difficult to know how to identify a responsible rescue organization when they are looking to adopt a pet. In the absence of any formal regulations or standards of practice, No Puppy Mills Canada has provided a checklist of things to look for.

Until the system changes in necessary and substantial ways, it is up to us to hold each other accountable. We need to strive to do this work in a way that ensures the results of our actions are just as good and noble as our intentions. Improving the lives of pets is important to all of us, but we need to do so in a way that does not cause more harm than good.

Kathy Powelson
Executive Director

Volunteer Board Member Positions Available

Posted by: Kathy Powelson Tags: There is no tags | Categories: News


Paws for Hope Animal Foundation is an animal welfare charity that provides care for pets in need, education for the community and support for the animal welfare sector.

We are committed to the establishment of a more sustainable approach to animal welfare issues within the province and work closely with partners and others in the field to build such sustainability and accountability. Direct assistance is provided to homeless and low income pet guardians through donated food and supplies, free animal healthcare clinics, funding for emergency veterinary care and no cost spay and neuters. We also provide grant assistance to animal welfare charities, lead the Animal Welfare Advisory Network of BC (AWANBC) and conduct advocacy initiatives on issues that impact animal welfare in our province.

We are currently in a growth stage and have plans to expand the areas of support provided to people and pets, including expanding the free clinics, increasing access to veterinary care and the creation of a crisis foster care program for individuals leaving abusive situations. We also have a long term goal of building a sanctuary.

The Board supports the work of Paws for Hope and provides community leadership, fund development support and strategic governance. Board members play a critical role in helping to move Paws for Hope to our next level of development.

We are looking for individuals with specific experience in:

  • Business/Finance
  • Charity Law
  • Communications
  • Fund Development

Specific Board Member responsibilities include but are not limited to:

Leadership, governance and oversight
– Serving as a trusted and devoted advisor to the Executive Director with the development and implementation of the Foundation’s strategic plan.
– Attend bi-monthly Board meetings and review agenda and supporting materials prior to meetings.
– Approving Paws for Hope’s annual budget, audit reports and making decisions on the Foundation’s governance and direction.
– Assisting the ED and Board Chair in recruiting other Board Members and/or committed volunteers.
– Serving on at least one committee and/or specific task forces.
– Representing Paws for Hope to stakeholders and the community at large; acting as an ambassador for the organization.

Board Members are expected to make Paws for Hope a philanthropic priority and to make annual contributions to the Foundation. In addition to their volunteer services. Fund development and achieving financial sustainability is a high priority for the Foundation, and Board Members are expected to help contribute to achieving financial growth of the organization.

Board terms
Paws for Hope’s Board Members will serve a two-year term to be eligible for re-appointment with Board and membership approval. Board meetings are held in person on average every other month with additional teleconference meetings as required. Committee meetings take place through email correspondence or as required via teleconference if in person meetings are not possible. Our Annual General Meeting is held in September and Board Members are expected to be in attendance.

Application Process:

Ideal candidates will have the following qualifications:
– Professionalism and experience in fund development and financial growth in the non-profit sector.
– A commitment to the understanding of animal welfare and the community members Paws for Hope serves through its programs and services.
– An agreeable personality with the goal of building consensus and facilitating respectful discussion among diverse individuals.
– A passion for improving the lives of animals and a belief in and understanding of the human-animal bond and how it pertains to those we serve.

Resume and Cover Letter
Please submit a detailed summary of your experiences and qualifications, along with a letter highlighting your interest in Paws for Hope and how your skillsets will best serve the Foundation and those we strive to serve within our community.
Please submit all documentation to Paws for Hope’s Board President, Dr. Shawn Llewellyn by email to

The Power of Love

Posted by: Kathy Powelson Tags: There is no tags | Categories: News


Tomorrow we say good bye to Sir Hamilton and there will be a big empty space in our home. Hamilton is the perfect example of the power of love. When he came to us as a palliative foster from Countryside Kennels last August, he was old and had a massive tumour on his side and the veterinarian did not expect he would live past October. We wanted to make his last couple of months’ full love and safety. And so, we all loved him with all our might. My husband and daughter, even our three dogs and cat seemed to understand that it was their duty to respect and protect him.

And the months passed. His tumour disappeared and he would spend most of his days on our heated kitchen floor.

Hamilton never pooped in the litter box and as the months passed, he stopped using the litter box all together. We would follow him around with pee pads, paper towels and disinfectant for we loved this old man. And he loved us. This I am sure of. He would come and sit by us on the couch and tap us on the shoulder for pets. And as each day passed that he was still with us, I believe it was a testimony for his gratitude for the love he received. Our bed, our daughter’s bed, the couch, the climbing post and the window sill. He spent periods of time in each room, ensuring that he didn’t miss out on anything.

And as the end draws near, and my heart feels with sorrow I hope he feels our gratitude. For there is nothing more rewarding than giving a homeless animal, not only a home, but a family. For giving an old cat a couch to rest his tired bones on. There is nothing more gratifying than sharing silent sleepy moments with a magnificent creature such as Hamilton, and there is nothing that can compare to knowing that his last moments were filled with the love of seven beating hearts.

Rest in peace Hamilton. Thank you for making your way into our home. I am very grateful for the time we had together. You will never be forgotten.

Kathy, Jules, Maya, Cinnibar, Skippy, Chili & Henry

Major Gifts Officer

Posted by: Kathy Powelson Tags: There is no tags | Categories: News


Paws for Hope Animal Foundation

Paws for Hope Animal Foundation (Paws for Hope) is passionate about animals and their ongoing care and protection. We have a vision for our province where every pet will be cared for and have a home. Each member of our teams believes in the potential to transform our animal welfare system to create a truly protective animal welfare system for pets in BC.

Major Gifts Officer

A newly created position, the Major Gifts Leader will oversee the development and implementation of a major gifts and planned giving program designed to increase individual, corporate, and community philanthropic support for Paws for Hope. Reporting to the Executive Director of our small, rapidly growing, and virtual organization, this position has a high level of autonomy to create and roll-out a strategy designed specifically for this organization. The ability to work independently and yet with a high level of accountability, is a hallmark of this position.

Key Responsibilities:

• Develop a major gifts strategy to target major individual, corporate, and community prospects that have the ability to make significant investments in the organization, through donations, sponsorships, in-kind contributions, third-party fundraising strategies, or planned giving vehicles
• Instigate and build meaningful relationships with a portfolio of prospects who have the ability to make a significant impact ($5000 or more) on animal welfare in BC and actively solicit these prospects
• Develop funding proposals to secure major contributions
• Develop and support a volunteer support team, including board members, who can identify prospects and support the solicitation process
• Develop a donor recognition program to honour donors for their support
• Steward current and past donors, maintaining their involvement and interest in the organization
• Develop and maintain communication networks and tools with stakeholders including donors, allied organizations, community leaders, volunteers, funders, and people of influence to provide regular updates and increase public awareness
• Support key Paws for Hope events that provide opportunities for cultivating, recognizing or stewarding donors
• Develop an annual program plan and evaluate results each year to help guide priorities for future years
• In partnership with the Executive Director, deliver presentations and attend events to build the organization’s profile and provide links to potential donors
• Prospect research
• Lead the development of collateral and online resources that support the major gifts program
• Manage donor database, records, and correspondence with all donors and prospects in the portfolio
• Create internal communication and reporting systems to maintain accountability in a virtual office environment

• 5 years of experience in a major gifts and fund development role, preferably in a small to mid-size organization(s)
• Demonstrated leadership skills and a record of completing assignments.
• Passionate about animal welfare and strong commitment to our vision for better animal welfare in BC
• Demonstrated success building relationships, developing cultivation and solicitation strategies, and securing individual and corporate gifts of $5,000 or more
• Proactive and self-sufficient, with the ability to work independently, from home with minimal supervision
• Strong planning and reporting skills
• Knowledge of planned giving including estate planning, trusts and estate, and tax laws
• Effective written and verbal communication skills
• Proficiency with donor databases, website platforms, and MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint
• Committed to effective donor stewardship practices to help ensure long-term support
• Willing to travel within the lower Mainland and occasionally in the province.

Hours & Compensation

Contract position for 20-25 hours a week, with potential to extend hours after 6 months. $40,000 – 50,000 / year


To apply, send resume and cover letter to Kathy Powelson
Deadline 4pm August 15, 2018

Supporting the Marginalized
in Our Communities

Posted by: Kathy Powelson Tags: There is no tags | Categories: News


by Shawn Llewellyn, DVM

It is a busy start to the morning at McLaren House in downtown Vancouver, as the schedule for appointments with veterinarians is fully booked and a fit-in list has already been started. The staff at McLaren Housing Society has organized appointments for pets of both residents and homeless guardians to be seen today. The team of volunteers for the no-cost animal health clinic includes veterinarians, registered veterinary technicians, and assistants, along with students from Douglas College’s veterinary technology and psychiatric nursing programs.

Over the course of the clinic, veterinary professionals will examine and vaccinate pets as well as educate guardians on their pets’ health and wellness. Deworming, pet food, supplies, grooming services, and free spay/neuter referrals will be provided, and minor medical conditions treated. Any complex conditions identified requiring a more thorough workup are referred to neighbouring veterinary clinics where they will receive the further care they need.

In this morning’s clinic, Teddy, a five-year-old Chihuahua cross, was brought to the clinic by his guardian, Jeremy. Jeremy recently adopted him from a friend he came to know during his time living on the streets. Teddy’s original guardian was unable to keep him when he moved into community housing that was not pet friendly. Luckily, he trusted Jeremy, and Jeremy was able—and more than willing—to adopt Teddy.

Jeremy was concerned that Teddy seemed to be taking longer to eat than usual. On Teddy’s examination, it was determined he had stage four periodontal disease and would require multiple extractions. Teddy was referred for further workup including blood work in preparation for dental surgery. Jeremy was grateful for the support he was given to get his closest friend and companion healthy and happy again. In the end, Teddy had ten teeth extracted, but will be healthier because of it. Jeremy was educated on the importance of oral care and has committed to working on maintaining Teddy’s dental health through regular teeth brushing.

Animal health clinics for the marginalized began on the notion that providing care to the pets of those in need supports not only the animals but also the more marginalized in our society. Strengthening the bond between animal and human guardian fosters a connection that runs deep and builds on the support network people have in their community.

Pets of the homeless and those most vulnerable provide necessary companionship and a structure to daily life that has proven to be life-altering in numerous instances. From the stories we are told as we build relationships with people and their pets, we learn of the lives that have been saved because of a pet coming into the care of a previous drug user or someone who was contemplating suicide. The human–animal bond is known to enhance psychological and emotional well-being and, in many circumstances, can be critical to people seeking further community supports and ultimately gaining a foothold back to some form of stability in society.

Some people may believe that pets of the homeless are not well cared for; however, this is a misconception. The volunteers at the numerous clinics throughout the province can attest to the care and well-being provided by these pet guardians. Data shows that homeless pet guardians have significantly higher mean scores on attachment to their pets compared to the population as a whole, and that their pet is important for their mental and physical health . One barrier to pet ownership that is often raised is housing. Many homeless pet guardians choose to remain on the streets due to inadequate housing options that allow pets. They choose their pet, often their sole companion, over affordable housing or a shelter environment. More pet-friendly housing options are becoming available, but there is still a lack. The site of today’s clinic, McLaren House, is one of those pet-friendly affordable housing organizations. McLaren Housing Society believe in the human–animal bond, as staff have witnessed time and again how a pet can help combat isolation, depression, and other mental health issues.

Research shows that animal companions help street involved youth cope with loneliness and improve their sense of well-being through unconditional love. It also shows how pets motivate positive change, such as decreasing drug and alcohol use. While pet guardianship provides many liabilities, companion animals offer both physical and psychological benefits that youth otherwise have difficulty attaining.

Veterinarians can build upon the bond that exists between pet and guardian. Opportunities for veterinarians include volunteering for an animal health clinic or running one in the community, partnering with an organization to provide support to those in need, donating supplies or preventive medications such as parasite control, fundraising for a community program, support and/or sharing stories of the work being done through social media networks. Many BC organizations and programs support the homeless and marginalized, including The Canadian Animal Assistance Team, Charlie’s Food Bank, Paws for Hope Animal Foundation, Vets for Pets Victoria, and One Health Clinic.

Pets serve as a meaningful source of constant companionship and support for the homeless and marginalized. This companionship has thwarted the worst effects of depression and helps those contemplating suicide regain an element of mental well-being and purpose. In line with that, veterinarians can, and do, play a leading role in the support and recognition of this influential human–animal relationship. Veterinary professionals help promote the health and well-being of both the animals and people involved, further strengthening an everlasting bond.

This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of West Coast Veterinarian Magazine, the quarterly publication of the CVMA-SBCV Chapter.

Helping People, Helping Pets

Posted by: Kathy Powelson Tags: There is no tags | Categories: News



The human-animal bond is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviours that are essential to the health and well-being of both. This includes, but is not limited to, emotional, psychological and physical interactions of people, animals and the environment.

In some circumstances, a pet is the only constant and comforting companion an individual has in their life. Pets can have a very positive impact on an individual’s emotional well-being, so much so, that they will choose this companionship over accessing much-needed services and/or housing. Caring for their pets maintains a sense of purpose and attachment while the exchange of affection and compassion can soften even the most difficult and vulnerable of circumstances. Understandably, the loss of a beloved pet at any time, but especially during times of crisis, can exacerbate feelings of hopelessness, depression and anxiety.

More and more, social services and animal welfare professionals are recognizing that they cannot help people without helping their pets—and they cannot help pets in a sustainable way if they are not helping their people as well.

• Anti-violence organizations and women’s shelters are now engaging in conversations about how they can better support women with pets who are in violent relationships. These women will often not seek shelter as they will not leave their pets behind in violent or abusive situations.
• Lack of affordable and pet-friendly housing is resulting in a constantly increasing number of families being forced to decide between their pets and a place to live—regardless of their financial means.
• Many British Columbians live paycheque to paycheque and a sickness, accident or other unexpected life event may make it temporarily difficult for an individual or family to provide for their much-loved pet.

There is a myriad of ways someone’s life can quickly unravel, and if this person also has pets, getting the supports they need to get them back on their feet, while still keeping and caring for their pet, is incredibly difficult, if not impossible.

Currently, the service community tends to be divided into those focused on helping pets (animal welfare) and those focused on helping people (social services)—and the vast majority of this work is done separately. Both social service and animal welfare organizations operate with limited resources, and many are only able to respond to the immediate and pressing needs of their clients—neither have the financial or human resources to create an additional layer of service.

Meeting the need to support homeless and low income families with financial aid for veterinary care is currently unmanageable.


When someone is no longer able to care for their pet, the burden for the well-being of this animal is placed on the animal welfare community which include volunteer-run rescues, donor-funded BC SPCA shelters and municipal government-run shelters supported by taxpayers. Despite the significant needs of companion animals and the important role they play in people’s lives, there is no government funding to support animal welfare and rescue organizations in B.C.

The reluctance of many shelters to take in animals with medical and/or behavioural issues places an enormous strain on the volunteer-run rescue community dependent on donor support.


Communities in the north, and other remote regions in the province, are often not equipped to address the needs of owned pets in their community because of lack of veterinary services and little to no presence of animal welfare or rescue organizations. In addition, many communities across the province have large numbers of feral community cats and free roaming dogs. This lack of animal welfare services and inability to manage free-roaming companion animals can affect the overall health status of communities when populations of unhealthy animals are present.

Animal welfare professionals recognize that a focus solely on the animal in need in these circumstances keeps the severely underfunded rescue organizations constantly in crisis mode without any capacity to create more sustainable proactive solutions.


A deep and life-enhancing bond between many pets and their human guardians exists regardless of economic or health status. When pet guardians live within either temporary or permanent vulnerable circumstances of low income or homelessness, pets can suffer from lack of adequate healthcare. When individuals choose to forego social services, including healthcare and housing, because of their bond with their pets, those individuals may suffer increased health and safety risks. Clearly, the challenge lies in how to best serve people with pets as a unit, in order to avoid breaking their bond.


The solution to the growing problem associated with people and their pets is to create an integrated service program that brings the social services and animal welfare sectors together—and Paws for Hope Animal Foundation is uniquely qualified to lead the way. Our Animal Welfare Advisory Network of BC (AWANBC) is bringing animal welfare organizations in B.C. together to address issues impacting communities across the province. We currently have strong relationships across the social services sector, including the Federation of Community Social Services BC (a member-based organization representing over 140 social service agencies in B.C.).

Paws for Hope aims address this gap by creating a program that can:
• respond to supporting the needs of pets whose people are in crisis;
• reduce barriers to access for service for people with pets;
• provide animal care training and support to social service staff;
• provide options to increase the likelihood pets can stay with their people and out of the shelter/rescue system.

To begin, we will need to meet with social service agencies across the province to identify what supports and services already exist, and what services are needed to support their clients with pets. These service needs may include:
• Emergency compassionate care
• Funding support for veterinary care
• Education regarding responsible pet guardianship
• Training for shelter staff on basis of animal care
• Behaviour consultations / training support
• Housing

We will also work with our animal welfare partners to identify the supports and services that are required and/or need to be enhanced.

There is a lot of work to be done, and you can join us in this exciting endeavour by making a one time or monthly donation.

The Top Three Reasons Why NOT To Gift a Pet for Christmas

Posted by: Kathy Powelson Tags: There is no tags | Categories: News


Our Vice-President Breanna and Lucy have an important message to share with you this holiday season on why gifting pets at Christmas is a bad idea.


The holidays are a busy time of year. We are often coming and going, more often than usual, from our homes to festive celebrations, shopping etc. When bringing a new pet into your home it is important for them to have your attention so that you and your new family member can create a trustworthy bond. This can be a very stressful time for pets, and an extra busy household that is full of excitement can make the transition process very difficult. If you are adopting a young animal the training required can be very time consuming and some animals require lots of exercise. Training should start immediately, not after the holidays are over. Most of us don’t have a spare moment during the holiday season, making if very difficult to find the time to train. The best way to alleviate the stress and fear a pet may have coming into your home is be home as often as you can, keep a consistent schedule and maintain a calm environment.


Gifting someone a pet for a present is just a bad idea. Choosing the right pet is a very personal decision and not one to be made by someone other than the new adoptive parent/family. Picking the right pet personality to suit you/your families is something for you and only you to do. Pets are not products, they are living creatures, like us, and they should NEVER be sold in a retail setting and purchased as presents. Even if adopting from a local shelter or rescue, gifting a pet gives the wrong impression, especially to children, that this new pet is a toy. You want your children to understand the responsibilities of caring for an animal and for your new pet to not end up being ignored after the novelty wears off.
Hold off bringing a pet home from a shelter and head on down to your best friend’s chocolatier and by them a box instead! Or give them a gift certificate for a pet adoption after the holidays are over.


Deciding to expand your family to include a pet is also committing to taking on the financial responsibility that comes along with them, much of which is unforeseen. This may not be fully thought through if you decide on a whim to adopt during the holidays as you are swept up in the magical time of year and decide to help a pet in need and bring home an animal from your local shelter. Purchasing or adopting an animal is a costly decision, from food, litter, regular and emergency veterinary care (like when your Pitbull Lucy gets pneumonia from eating goose poop!). And let’s not forget the pets who will require walkers, daycare and will need somewhere like a boarding kennel or pet sitter when you take your annual vacation or frequent business trips. Please fully consider all of the responsibilities that go along with having a pet any time of the year.


Giving an animal the gift of a forever home is a wonderful gift, but if you celebrate the holidays, the best thing you can do is wait until your festivities are over. If you are having a hard time waiting and feel like you want to give to animals this holiday season, consider making a donation/volunteering at the animal charity of your choice or the shelter you anticipate meeting your new pet at in 2018. As a board member for Paws for Hope Animal Foundation, I can personally attest to the personal rewards volunteering brings.

Happy Howlidays to you all, I wish you and yours the very best this season!

Breanna Laubach
Paws for Hope Animal Foundation

PS: Of course, if you would like to help animals most in need during the holidays, you can do so by donating to us!