When people are in crisis, animals are in crisis.
We have known this for a while, but we haven’t always had the ability to help the animals by helping their owners. That is why we launched the One Family Welfare department last year. Its focus is to help people in crisis by taking away the burden of caring for their pets for a short period of time so they can focus on their own well-being. We know that once pet owners realize their animals are in a safe place, they are much more likely to seek help. It ensures both pets and their owners become healthy, mentally and physically.
Roxie Ann’s story is one of those cases. She called our One Family Welfare department about a year ago completely distraught. Roxie Ann had been living on her own after fleeing an abusive situation. But now she was being evicted due to a situation that was out of her control.
Roxie Ann had seven small breed dogs and she was about to become homeless unless she could find a new home quickly. In the short term, she stayed with a friend but Roxie Ann was not going to be able to stay there with the dogs for long. The situation was incredibly stressful for Roxie Ann as her dogs were her only family and source of comfort; she could not live without them. Roxie Ann’s mental health was declining as she struggled to find an appropriate place for herself and her dogs, while simultaneously dealing with other challenges including medical and financial issues, along with psychological distress from a past traumatic event.
It was at this point the Alberta SPCA’s One Family Welfare department became involved in Roxie Anne’s situation. While she didn’t want to be separated from her dogs, Roxie Ann came to understand her dogs would be better off away from her for a period of time in order to allow her to get her housing and finances straightened out.
During the intake process, after a long discussion with the Pet Safekeeping Coordinator, Roxie Ann made the difficult decision to surrender four puppies to the Alberta SPCA because she realized it would be difficult to find housing for herself and seven dogs. The decision also allowed Roxie Ann the ability to properly care for the three remaining dogs as well as herself.
While most pets in the program stay with the Alberta SPCA for about a month, Roxie Ann’s dogs had a much longer stay. Roxie Ann struggled to find housing and became homeless. She admitted to OFW staff the highlight of her week was getting an update on her dogs and she acknowledged her only motivation for getting her life turned around was knowing she wanted her pets back home with her. Despite this, Roxie Ann struggled to find the proper social supports until One Family Welfare staff made some calls on her behalf.
Four months after Roxie Ann first entered the program, she was finally in a stable situation where she could welcome her dogs home. As she left the program, Roxie Ann thanked the One Family Welfare program for not giving up on her. “I have happy tears because of you,” she said on her discharge forms.
Roxie Ann’s situation is a typical one for the clients of our One Family Welfare program. People care deeply about their pets and many will not take care of themselves until they know their animals are both safe, and will be returned to them. Sometimes the best way to help animals is to help their owners first, and that is what the One Family Welfare department does every day.
This story is not unique.
When in crisis, pet owners are often unable to focus on their own mental and physical wellbeing until they know that their companion animal will be safe. The Crisis Care Program provides reprieve to pet owners dealing with a life-changing event that impedes on their ability to care for their companion animal(s).
The Alberta SPCA’s Crisis Care Program was launched in 2019. This program is designed for individuals that have run out of safe options, it is a last resort program for individuals experiencing crisis and are unable to care for their animals temporarily.
Refuge should be available to everyone.