How to Help Animals in Your Community, and Beyond (Part I)


There is nothing more heartbreaking than opening up a newspaper, reading an online article, or watching a newscast detailing the latest case of animal cruelty or neglect. Oftentimes, we read or watch these reports, feel sympathy for all involved, then move on to the next story. But what if we replaced our sympathy with true empathy? Rather than simply extending our compassion towards others, what if we really took the time to sit back, imagine ourselves in a similar situation and understand the pain involved? To quote Stephen M.R. Covey:

“We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviour.”

What would happen if we instead judged ourselves based purely on our actions? Would we be as good of a person as our neglected intentions would lead us to believe we are? It is so easy to have the best intentions, but it is entirely different to execute them. While this concept can be extended to many facets of our lives, the focus of this multi-part blog will be how we can put these good intentions to use in order to help animals in need. Here, we will outline some ways that you can make an impact within your community, and even globally. Making a difference is easier than you think!

The first (and most obvious) way to help an animal in need is through adoption. Undoubtedly, the best place to adopt an animal would be from a shelter or rescue. These types of organizations work tirelessly to help and home stray, abandoned, surrendered or seized animals. By providing proper medical care and living conditions, shelters and rescues allow these animals a second chance at life, in hopes that they will be adopted into a loving home. The Brampton Animal Shelter is one of many examples.

If you are looking for a certain breed of dog or cat, there are also many breed-specific rescues that extend a wide network, so do a little investigative work. Of course, if you want the true “puppy or kitten experience,” that’s fine too. Just make sure you are adopting your future family member from a reputable breeder. The Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) provides excellent information on how to find such a breeder, just click here to check out their “Golden Rules.”

It is best to avoid adopting from any source other than a shelter, rescue or reputable breeder. Issues begin to arise when pets are adopted from alternative sources, namely pet stores and “backyard breeders.” Please, make sure you do your homework if this is the avenue you are planning to take. In 2010, the public was shocked by the HBO documentary, “Madonna of the Mills,” which chronicles a young woman’s struggle to save dogs from puppy mills. It is not a film for the faint of heart, and exposes a previously unconsidered world of puppy mills. The documentary was later followed up by a Forbes magazine article in 2012 called “Where Not to Buy a Dog: The Pet Store Connection to the Business of Puppy Mills,” which uses an interview with the documentary’s director to elaborate on the puppy mill industry and the goal to raise awareness through public education. While these examples are based in America, the puppy mill industry thrives in Canada as well. According to the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS):

“Over the past decade the puppy mill industry has increased in Canada. Before 1995 most puppies in Canadian pet stores were imported from the United States, but in 1995 new legislation was implemented by Agriculture Canada to regulate the import of puppies from the United States. The […] new law was successful in reducing the number of puppies being shipped to Canada. Unfortunately, the decrease in imported puppies from the U.S. created a demand that was met by an increase in Canadian mills.”

Unfortunately, puppy mills exist because a demand for cheap and easily accessible puppies exists. While recent Ontario legislation has prohibited pet stores from selling puppies, the puppy mill business is supported by a public that continues to purchase puppies online, from newspaper ads, or through puppy “brokers.” Until there is an end to the economic support of puppy mills, they will remain prevalent within our society. Only after the profitability of this market is gone, will we start to see a decline in the puppy mill industry. This, however, is a topic that will be explored in future blog posts – the focus of this blog is aiding animals through adoption.

Of course, not everyone is in the position to adopt a needy animal into their home. However, those people could always consider a symbolic adoption. The concept here is that you give a small, one-time donation to “adopt” an at-risk species of your choice, and that money goes towards supporting the conservation efforts of the organization from which you are adopting. A few examples of organizations that offer this type of program are the Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), but there are many others.

Whatever you choose to do, make sure that it is within your means. Some people may not be able to provide adequate space, attention or care to an animal in need, and that’s okay. It just means that those people can take their good intentions and put them to work elsewhere. Stay tuned for the next segment in this multi-part blog to read about other avenues that can be employed in the ongoing struggle to help our furry friends.


On behalf of the staff at Snelgrove Veterinary Services,

Thank you for reading,