Empowering change: Trauma-informed leadership in the animal service sector

How animal service leaders can improve outcomes with trauma-informed care

Join the Vancouver Humane on Wednesday, November 22nd at 9:00 am PDT for an enlightening 60-minute webinar on trauma-informed leadership in animal services organizations.

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Who should join?

Anyone who would like to learn about the role of animal service leadership in introducing a trauma-informed approach in their organization is welcome to attend! This webinar is designed for all board members in animal services including:

  • Humane societies;
  • Shelters;
  • Rescues; and
  • Other nonprofits.

Free webinar by the Vancouver Humane Society: Watch the replay

Empowering change: Trauma-informed leadership in BC’s animal service sector

This webinar from the Vancouver Humane Society sheds light on the ways leaders can integrate trauma-informed care into their organizations to positively impact the animals they serve, the well-being of the people who care for them, and the staff who interact with both animals and clients.

Find out how board members can integrate trauma-informed care in animal services…

During this conversation, panelists will share their experiences and insights, shedding light on the ways leaders can integrate trauma-informed care into their organizations to positively impact the animals they serve, the well-being of the people who care for them, and the staff who interact with both animals and clients. Panelists will explore topics including:

  • How can a board ensure that trauma-informed principles are integrated into the organization’s governance structure and decision-making processes?  
  • What steps can an organization take to ensure that trauma-informed care is integrated into the organization’s mission, values, and long-term strategic planning?  
  • How can an organization approach decision-making to ensure that it is inclusive, equitable, and reflective of diverse experiences and needs?
  • How does your organization prioritize staff mental health? 
  • What is your approach to HR from a trauma-informed lens? 
  • What measures has your organization taken to promote equity within its leadership and governance structures?  

Attendees who stay until the end will be entered in a draw for a $100 donation to their organization.

Meet the panelists

Amy Morris

Executive Director, Vancouver Humane Society

Amy (she/her) is settler of Slovakian, Dutch, German and British ancestry. Amy resides and recreates on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, sḵwx̱wú7mesh, & sel̓íl̓witulh Nations, currently known as Vancouver and Squamish. Amy joined VHS in early 2020. Amy volunteers as the President of the Board of Directors for the Animal Welfare Foundation of Canada. She holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy from Simon Fraser University with a thesis focused on regulating dog breeding to improve well-being and a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Concordia University with a specialization in Business. Amy has wide experience in the animal protection movement, campaigning for policy changes at the municipal, provincial and federal levels to curtail animal exploitation. Amy shares her life with Clover, a collie mix who guides their day to day adventures.

Danielle George

Director, Vancouver Humane Society

Danielle George (she/her) is originally from Kansas, USA and is a recent immigrant to Canada, though she fell in love with the PNW years ago. She’s got a degree in sociology with an emphasis on human sexuality and has been working with people in a wide variety of fields from door-to-door campaigning to leading studies exploring sexual behaviours to working at shelters at the DTES. Some of her favourite work involves breaking down systems and helping people digest them from different perspectives so each aspect can be really evaluated on if it’s serving the intended purpose, if not, what supports are needed to get it there, or asking if it is the system or the goals themselves that need restructuring. Danielle has been passionate about creating and finding community in Vancouver, especially within Black & mixed race, Queer, fat-positive, and liberation-focused spaces.


New Microgrant Program for animal service organizations

The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) is thrilled to announce the Microgrant Program, which is dedicated to supporting and empowering animal service organizations in their mission to provide care and support to humans and animals in need.  

What is the Microgrant Program? 

Organizations face many challenges, including when it comes to investing in training and professional development opportunities like the Trauma-Informed Training Program

Learn more about Trauma-Informed Training

To address this, the VHS team is offering the new Microgrant Program, designed to provide financial assistance to animal service organizations in British Columbia, Canada that wish to participate in the VHS’ trauma-informed training. Though the training program is free, the VHS understands that there are staffing and operational costs associated with taking a training.  

This microgrant program aims to help cover the operational costs needed to complete the free training program in order to uplift organizations and strengthen their capacity to make a lasting impact on the welfare of animals and their communities.  

Who should apply?

Supporting animal service organizations 

The VHS’s Microgrant Program is tailored specifically for animal service organizations in British Columbia, including:

  • shelters,
  • rescue groups,
  • & nonprofit organizations,

which are working tirelessly to provide care, support, and treatment to animals in need.

The VHS team understands the unique challenges these organizations face in putting time aside for training opportunities, and is committed to supporting them in learning about and implementing trauma-informed, culturally safe care through the VHS’s trauma-informed training program.

Priority for organizations serving Indigenous communities 

The VHS recognizes the importance of Indigenous communities’ involvement and experiences with animal service organizations. Therefore, priority will be given to organizations located in or serving Indigenous communities to enhance the well-being of people and animals within Indigenous contexts. 

Priority for small and medium-sized organizations

Small and medium-sized organizations often have limited resources and capacity. Preference will be given to small or medium-sized organizations, recognizing that they may face additional challenges in investing in training opportunities. By supporting these organizations with the operational costs needed to take the trauma-informed training program, the microgrant aims to promote inclusivity and equitable access to resources, helping them thrive and make a greater impact in their communities.  

Reporting and evaluation 

Transparency and accountability are crucial. Microgrant recipients will be required to provide periodic reports on the progress of their trauma-informed projects or initiatives, including financial information and impact metrics. This allows us to evaluate the success of the microgrant program and showcase the positive outcomes achieved by the organizations we support.  

How to apply 

Applying for the Microgrant Program is simple: Complete the application form with the necessary information, including details about your organization, and how the microgrant will benefit your organization’s work and the animals you serve.  

Application form

Apply now and let’s make a positive change for animals together! 

All eligible animal service organizations, especially those working with Indigenous communities, are encouraged to apply for the VHS’s Microgrant Program and seize the opportunity to access the VHS’s trauma-informed training courses and workshops. Together, we can strengthen the animal service community and create a lasting impact on animal welfare in British Columbia.  

Note: Learn more about the trauma-informed training program here.

Learn more about Trauma-Informed Training

Compassion, collaboration, and change: Exploring veterinary social work in animal services

How veterinary social workers can transform animal services

Join the Vancouver Humane Society and three expert panelists on Wednesday, June 14th at 9:00 am PDT for an enlightening 60-minute webinar on the field of veterinary social work and its transformative impact on the animal services industry.

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Who should join?

Anyone who would like to learn about collaboration between the sectors of social work and animal services, and about promoting the well-being of both workers and animal guardians, is welcome to attend! The webinar is designed for professionals and organizations working in:

  • Humane societies;
  • Shelters;
  • Veterinary clinics;
  • Rescues;
  • Social work; and
  • Related fields.

Free webinar by the Vancouver Humane Society & expert panelists

Find out how veterinary social work could change animal services…

During the 40-minute discussion, panelists will explore topics including:

  • What is veterinary social work, and how does it differ from traditional social work? 
  • How can working with a veterinary social worker benefit organizations in the animal services industry? 
  • How can collaboration between sectors help to combat burnout and compassion fatigue? 
  • How can a veterinary social worker help organizations implement trauma-informed practices? 
  • What are some challenges or barriers that organizations might face when incorporating veterinary social work into their practices, and how can they overcome them? 

The final 20 minutes of the webinar will be dedicated to audience questions, ensuring an interactive and engaging experience for all participants. Attendees who stay until the end will have the opportunity to enter a giveaway prize draw.

Don’t miss this chance to discover how veterinary social work could change animal services, and to explore the possibilities for collaboration between human services and the animal services industry. Register now to secure your spot and contribute to the well-being of animals, workers, and organizations alike.

Meet the panelists

Natalie Cruz

Boundary Bay Veterinary Specialty Hospital

Natalie has been a veterinary social worker at Boundary Bay Veterinary Specialty Hospital for more than a year. A lifelong animal lover, she has her Masters of Social Work and has more than 10 years experience in the social services field using skills such as crisis intervention, grief & loss support, difficult diagnosis conversations, end of life discussions, safety assessments, psychoeducation and more.

In her role as a veterinary social worker, she provides support for pet owners who are going through grief and loss, receiving a difficult diagnosis, end of life discussions and quality of life discussions. She also provides support to BBVSH staff around different concerns such as mental health, burnout, compassion fatigue and much more. She hopes by sharing more about veterinary social work that it can start a conversation within the animal services field on having a social worker on their team.

On her days off, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends and enjoy exploring what British Columbia has to offer. She has a dog named Timber and a rabbit named Gertrude.

Erin Wasson

University of Saskatchewan, Western College of Veterinary Medicine

Erin Wasson (BSW, MSW, RSW) is a registered social worker who has worked clinically in several areas, including mental health, addictions, crisis response, interpersonal violence, trauma, geriatrics, disability, and youth work. She has spent her career working with individuals, groups, and communities as an advocate, clinician, and educator. She works from an integrative approach to social work, which includes assessments and interventions from a community-care and trauma-integrated lens. These approaches help Erin and the clients she works with to explore the context of their experiences that lead to relational connection and disconnection within their lives.   

In 2014 Erin implemented the Veterinary Social Work services at the University of Saskatchewan, Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM), the first of its kind in Canada. From a one welfare perspective, she continues to work as a social worker at the WCVM, providing services to clients of the Veterinary Medical Centre as well as resources to staff and faculty. Additionally, Erin has been active in the promotion of health, wellbeing, and tangible self-care strategies with veterinarians and allied professions. This includes providing resources, support, and educational seminars to professional associations, animal welfare agencies, and other groups who interact with human and animal relationships and manage the challenges that arise in the interface of the human and animal bond.

Dillon Dodson

Toronto Humane Society

Dillon joined Toronto Humane Society in early 2020 to head up the expansion of the Urgent Care program. Drawing on over a decade of experience working as a professional social worker, Dillon utilized her experience supporting marginalized persons to inform every step of the UC program creation and associated training manual.

From childhood, Dillon has always believed in the power of animal healing and has worked to align her professional skills with a foundational desire to be with animals. From advocating for animal-assisted sessions for trauma survivors to providing equine-facilitated therapy, Dillon seeks opportunities to bring unity between animals and people.

Dillon has an extensive educational background in Social Work gaining her Masters of Social Work degree from the University of Toronto and her Bachelor of Social Work from McMaster University, in addition to a number of certifications relevant to her field of specialization. She works through a resilience framework, employing trauma-informed practices and leading with recovery-oriented treatment.

In January 2023, Dillon joined Toronto Humane Society fulltime as senior manager of social work and embarked on certification in veterinary social work. In the same year, she was elected to the Board of Directors of the International Association of Veterinary Social Workers.


Helping companion animals across the nation

Funded by a 3-year grant from the Vancouver Foundation, the VHS is offering free online courses and workshops to help animal service organizations keep more animals in loving homes through trauma-informed, outreach-focused, and prevention-based practices. 

The VHS was grateful to collaborate with new partners on this project last year. In 2022, the training program officially partnered with the Paws for Hope Animal Foundation and the Human Animal Support Services Project (HASS), two organizations working to keep more pets with the people who love them.

The BC Vet Technologists Association has also approved the VHS’s online training for continuing education, meaning vet techs who complete the courses will receive 2 credits per session toward their continuing education.

The VHS is excited for these collaborations, and the opportunity to help more organizations across Canada and the United States implement these practices. 

If you or someone you know works in animal services, you can learn more on the VHS website or contact the Program Manager, Sareeta, at or (236) 521-7742. 

Learn more or register for free

Let’s talk: Building resilience in the animal services sector

Improve outcomes, decrease burnout

As we see a global shift in social movements, public health responses, and political and economic climates, the animal services sector is experiencing a shift as well. This shift is unfortunately leading to increased burnout and overwhelm—but it also presents a moment of opportunity.

More and more animal services leaders and organizations like yours are adapting to help more animals through innovative programs and practices. In this webinar, Guelph Humane Society shares their experience building organizational resilience and using trauma-informed strategies in a rapidly changing world.

You’re invited to join the Vancouver Humane Society and Guelph Humane Society live on November 16th, 2022, at 9:00 am PST/12:00 pm EST for this free interactive webinar.

Free webinar by the Vancouver Humane Society & Guelph Humane Society

Sign up now

Come listen to Guelph Humane’s story…

The VHS is excited to partner with Guelph Humane Society for a free webinar. During this conversation, they will share how they manage burnout and build resilience within their organization, as well as the trauma-informed strategies they’re using to do so.

Questions explored in the webinar will include:

  • How do you build trust and relationships in your community? What kind of presence do you have in your community?
  • What best practices for a trauma-informed approach stand out to you? What is your organization doing to support those practices? 
  • What are some actions you have taken to build resilience individually, as a team, and as an organization? 
Opinion Editorial

Government support needed to help resolve veterinary care crisis in B.C.

Article originally published on The Georgia Straight.

Veterinary care in British Columbia has reached a point of crisis, and veterinary staff, pets, and guardians are all feeling the strain.

Pet guardians report months-long wait times seeking care for their animals, who are suffering due to staff shortages.

Meanwhile, veterinarians are more than twice as likely to experience suicidal thoughts when compared with other Canadians. Some aging veterinarians in B.C. worry that they will feel guilty leaving their work to their colleagues when they retire.

So how did we get here, and, more importantly, how do we fix it?

To start with, there are simply not enough veterinarians to handle the sheer volume of pets who need help. In Canada, there is about one cat or dog for every two people. In British Columbia, there is just one veterinarian graduating into the workforce each year for every 102 doctors—an especially bleak statistic considering there is also a doctor shortage in the province.

Anyone who wishes to become a veterinarian in this province must vie for one of only 20 spaces with financial aid, which would allow them to study at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon for a reduced tuition fee of $11,000 per year. Those who cannot find a coveted spot must cover the entire tuition themselves—a whopping $67,000 annually.

The time, difficulty, and expenses incurred in becoming a veterinarian and maintaining a veterinary practice can drive up the cost of care for pet guardians.

Since veterinary care is not subsidized by the government, this can spark a vicious cycle that leads to stressed pet guardians, less than ideal communication between guardians and veterinary staff, and animals not getting the care they need until their health is in a severe state of crisis.

All those factors can contribute to veterinarians and veterinary technicians taking on even further mental and emotional burdens.

recent research article from the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) and Dalhousie University assistant professor Haorui Wu proposes steps that would help break this cycle. The research delves into recommendations from pet guardians who experienced barriers to veterinary care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It ultimately finds that changes like financial support for low-income pet guardians and training for veterinary staff on a trauma-informed approach could reduce the stress of both guardians and veterinarians while improving the lives of animals.

The link between the health of animals and the well-being of the humans around them is common sense to many people who share their home with a pet. When a guardian is unable to afford needed care for a beloved pet, the guardian often experiences stress, guilt, and shame. When a veterinarian euthanizes a pet that was unable to receive preventive care for financial reasons, the loss of that animal can take a severe emotional toll on all who are involved.

The interconnectedness between human and animal well-being has been explored in recent years under the moniker “One Health, One Welfare”. VHS’s research highlights this approach as a best practice.

One local example of this practice in action is Community Veterinary Outreach (CVO). “Our group utilizes the One Health approach,” says Doris Leung, veterinarian and regional director of CVO in Vancouver. “We recognize that by improving an animal’s health and well-being, you can improve the pet guardian’s health and well-being as well. Our volunteers support marginalized pets and their owners in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES).”

With CVO events, pet guardians have access to caring, trauma-informed veterinary services in concert with human health services. For instance, they can learn about the importance of tooth brushing to promote good oral hygiene for their pets and to prevent pain and suffering with periodontal disease. At the same time, they can get support for their own oral health from volunteer dental hygienists at the clinic.

When pet guardians have positive experiences in seeking care for their animal—whether that means finding care with a holistic model similar to CVO, being supported through payment plans, or speaking with a veterinarian who has received training in trauma-informed care—they are more likely to prioritize veterinary care in the future.

These services help to ensure that animals will receive preventive care and decrease the need for euthanizations performed due to a lack of funds. A trauma-informed approach improves the communication between veterinarians and their clients, transforming normally stressful interactions into productive partnerships. If implemented now, these changes can even begin to decrease burnout in the veterinary sector.

Note: If you’re thinking about suicide, or are worried about a friend or loved one, you can call the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention at any time.