Media Release

New report shows that animal services can help more animals through policy and practice changes

VANCOUVER – A new report developed by the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) aims to bring animal services into the conversation about equity in order to improve outcomes for animals, their guardians, and animal services workers.

People from all backgrounds enjoy the companionship and mental health benefits of animals, but people who are placed-at-risk—those experiencing poverty or systemic discrimination, who are often at a higher risk of dealing with past traumas—can face barriers in caring for their pets. The report, called “Helping people and animals together”, features interviews with people who have faced negative experiences accessing animal services such as animal rescue, sheltering, or bylaw.

One participant featured in the report was a survivor of domestic violence who had attempted to surrender their cat for fear of the cat’s safety. The participant was prohibited by their partner from carrying money and did not have the fee required to transfer the cat into a shelter. “The [worker] was very insistent that from then on I will never be able to adopt another animal,” they said, “and honestly it broke my heart”.

Animal services agencies have a unique opportunity to address the barriers people face in caring for their pets and end the cycle of trauma for both animals and their guardians. The report lays out strategies rooted in trauma-informed and culturally safe approaches that agencies can employ.

In particular, the report highlights an approach that builds connections with people and communities and helps them to access resources for their animals. This outreach-based approach offers a more permanent solution than the current system of surrenders and seizures, which breaks up the human-animal bond and protects a single animal while putting future animals at risk. It offers an opportunity to create a more supportive framework in the overburdened and underfunded animal services sector, where staff are at a high risk of burnout and compassion fatigue.

In making suggestions for improvement, the report also features interviews with workers in the animal services sector and people working in sectors that already use a trauma-informed approach, like child protection and social work.

The report was made possible with the support of the Animal Welfare Foundation of Canada, the Vancouver Foundation, and the Government of British Columbia. Animal services workers and anyone interested in human and animal welfare can read the full report about “taking a trauma-informed, culturally safe approach towards assisting placed-at-risk people with addressing animal neglect” on the Vancouver Humane Society website.


For further information: Amy Morris: 604-416-2901

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