Furry Family Matters

Alberta SPCA’s unique pet safekeeping program keeps the hope alive

Many of us love our pets, they are members of our families. But, what if you couldn’t afford to keep your pet with you for a time?

“I’ve had Buster since he was a puppy. He’s my whole world. I don’t know what would’ve happened to me if I lost him during that hard time,” says Mel Smith,* a former client of the One Family Welfare program at the Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Alberta SPCA), who accessed the services due to a financial hardship.

Alberta SPCA’s One Family Welfare (OFW), supports safety for animals and humans in crisis by providing vital services including a pet safekeeping program, a crisis care program, crisis intervention, safety planning, animal protection service and confidential support.

“We offer temporary care for pets while family members seek help for themselves due to crisis situations. This includes people who are fleeing family violence, those who require emergency medical care, and families who may find themselves homeless due to unforeseen circumstances,” says Dan Kobe, communications manager of the Alberta SPCA.

The OFW department has seen a dramatic increase in need for animal and human safety programs over the past year, especially under the pressure of COVID-related financial and family crises. During this same period, the Alberta SPCA lost fundraising opportunities due to public health restrictions, despite an annual 170-per-cent increase in the number of animals accepted into the program.

In 2020, Smith got in touch with One Family Welfare for the pet safekeeping program during a hard time in their life. Julia Evasiuk, pet safekeeping coordinator with One Family Welfare, gained Mel’s trust through patience and frequent updates on their dog while the department took care of their dog for about three weeks.

“The process through the program was so easy. Julia kept in touch with me all the time. She’s so passionate with animal friends, so I trust her a lot,” says Smith.

“The day I got myself out of the financial difficulties, I called the coordinators immediately. And I was able to reunite with my dog the very next day. He looked so happy and healthy, and clean. I have no idea how they managed to give him a bath, a groom and a bow tie within that short amount of time. That was the best day in a very long time of my life.”

“A strong motivator for our clients’ success is their desire to keep their families together, pets included,” said Patricia Mamak, director of the One Family Welfare department. “Our clients are more willing to access services and overcome challenges or barriers they face so they can bring their pets home.”

In September 2021, Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) granted $50,000 to the Alberta SPCA to hire additional administrative support to the OFW department. With the hiring of an additional staff member, Alberta SPCA frontline staff can spend more time helping clients address their challenges while ensuring their animals are in safe places.

With sufficient funding, the experienced and compassionate staff of the OFW department will be able to find foster homes for pets and connect them to their owners.

“Losing a pet due to a crisis situation can be absolutely devastating,” Mamak added. “Our program offers the ability to reunite pets with their people once the individual’s well-being has been addressed.”

*last name changed to protect the identity of the individual

This story comes from the Summer 2022 edition of Legacy in Action. Read the full magazine.