A personal account by the Pet Safekeeping Coordinator (2018)
I wear many hats as the Alberta SPCA’s Pet Safekeeping Coordinator; crisis interventionist, stakeholder relation representative, animal transporter, graphic designer, problem solver, outreach worker, and more.
Every day is different.
Different to-do lists.
What follows is an example of a typical day in my work.
Sunday at 6:40 p.m: Kittycat Case
My mobile phone bings to notify me that a client has discharged from a local women’s shelter in northern Alberta. She wants to be reunited with her three cats as soon as possible because she is relocating to another city in the next 24 hours.
- I start the discharge process by contacting various partner agencies to prepare the cats for reunification with their owner. The discharge process involves people from three different agencies and the management of many precise details.
- I work with a local humane society to prepare the cats for discharge from their foster home. This work includes making sure the cats depart with care packages so that the owner doesn’t have to worry about supplies when starting over. I also schedule a timeline that works for the foster parent, medical team and client.
- I work with a partner veterinary clinic to create discharge notes and a long term treatment plan for one of the cats, which was recently diagnosed with diabetes.
- I work with the crisis intervention worker to ensure that discharge paperwork is completed and to schedule a pick-up of the cats.
- I work with the client to come up with a personalized safety plan that includes her cats. I am very aware that the risk of domestic homicide is highest when the victim leaves their abuser—each departing client receives a safety plan that includes their pets.
By 8:00 p.m. the discharge timeline has been established for Monday at 8:30 a.m.
Sunday at 9:00 p.m: 6-Pack Case
My mobile phone bings again. This time it’s telling me a client was accepted into an outreach program in central Alberta. The client is scheduled to relocate to a women’s shelter north of Edmonton in an hour, but she says she won’t leave her pets behind out of fear they will be harmed. I immediately start to arrange for the intake of two large dogs and four cats—the 6-pack, as I call them.
Each intake process is unique. This client is located in a small rural community, and because it is 9:00 p.m. on a Sunday I can’t reach our regular agency partners to complete the intake. Instead, I contact an afterhours financial support agency to find a pet-friendly hotel that will house the client and her animals overnight.
Someone from the central Alberta outreach program will call me at 8:30 a.m. on Monday to finalize the intake.
Sunday at 10:30 p.m: Paperwork
I document everything that happened tonight on the two cases and update the Pet Safekeeping Program database.
Monday at 8:00 a.m: Kittycat Case
I pick up the three discharged cats from a confidential pick-up location and then travel on to meet the client and her support worker at the women’s shelter outreach office.
At 8:30 a.m. the client is reunited with her cats. I go through the safety plan with her one more time.
Monday at 8:45 a.m: 6-Pack Case
On my way to the Alberta SPCA head office, I receive a call from the outreach worker regarding the client with the 6-pack of pets. The outreach worker tells me that the client learned that her husband—her abuser—was arrested and is currently being held in custody for an outstanding warrant. The client decided to go back home to pick up important documents and her son’s favorite toys while her husband is in custody. The outreach worker tells me she will call back once the client is ready to relocate later that afternoon.
Monday at 9:30 a.m: Head Office
I arrive at the Alberta SPCA head office to work on files, check in on clients in the program, respond to administrative emails and phone calls, and work on an educational resource that outlines the connection between elder abuse and animal abuse.
Monday at 11:30 a.m: Feline Anemia Case
I receive an emergency phone call from a veterinary partner clinic to advise that an Pet Safekeeping Program cat was just brought to the clinic and is unresponsive. The cat is rushed to an emergency animal hospital by a veterinary partner staff. I spend the next several hours trying to reach the owner.
The emergency animal hospital is able to stabilize the cat and it is diagnosed with non-regenerative anemia. The cat is eventually transferred back to the veterinary partner clinic and moved to a medical foster home.
Monday at 12:30 p.m: Feathers and Fur Case
I leave the office to meet with a representative from a senior abuse prevention agency to discuss a current Pet Safekeeping Program client. The social worker representing the senior client advocates for a program extension. The client is scheduled to discharge in a week but requires more time in the program due to health issues and problems finding housing that will accommodate her five birds and two rabbits. I discuss the client’s case and unique needs with the social worker and agree to the extension.
Monday at 12:30 p.m: Trio Case
While I was at the Feathers and Fur meeting, referral forms came in from a women’s shelter north of Edmonton for a family that has three little dogs. After the meeting, sitting in my car in the parking lot of the senior abuse prevention agency, I arrange with the veterinary partner and women’s shelter staff for the intake of the trio of dogs.
Monday at 1:00 p.m: Head Office
I head back to the Alberta SPCA head office to work on client file paperwork and on the graphic design for an upcoming social media campaign.
Monday at 3:30 p.m: The Girls Case
A current Pet Safekeeping Program client phones me unexpectedly. She sounds frantic on the phone. Through audible tears, the client shares that she can’t find affordable housing that is pet friendly. She says she can’t lose her “girls”: two female dogs she has had since they were puppies. The client starts to cry uncontrollably, and she shares painful childhood memories involving her mother’s abuse, her history of being in abusive relationships, and how overwhelmed she is with finding housing. I provide as much emotional support and crisis intervention as I can over the phone. I also give the client high-priority referrals to housing support agencies and psychological services.
After the phone call I start to work on a list of referrals and resources for the client to help make her healing process as successful as possible.
Monday at 3:45 p.m: Head Office
I review new emails and continue the work on client file paperwork. I also start working on a document discussing the Power and Control Wheel of Animal Abuse and Domestic Violence.
Monday at 4:30 p.m: Home
I leave the office and head home.
Monday at 6:30 p.m: 6-Pack Case
The outreach worker phones to tell me that the client has decided to go back home and try to work on her relationship. We discuss safety planning for the client, knowing that, on average, a woman will leave and return to an abusive relationship six times before she leaves for good.
Monday at 8:00 p.m: Thank You
I receive a message from a past client. In the message the client shares that the program changed her life and made sure that her dogs, her children and herself were safe. She says she made a donation in honour of her dogs.
Monday at 10:00 p.m: Big Little Family Case
A partner agency in southern Alberta sends a courtesy email to advise me that they are expecting a client to arrive the next day with three little dogs, four cats and one hamster. I start making preparations for intake.
One month later
The 6-pack client is accepted back into the Pet Safekeeping Program. This time she successfully relocated to a women’s shelter in another city.