In tough times, some of our best friends can fall through the cracks. Family pets and working animals can suffer during hard economic times just as their owners do. If food and health resources are in short supply, pets can end up unwanted and cast aside to survive on their own.
In 2011, Alistair Schroff, Hayley Nielsen and Valerie Ingram founded the Lakes Animal Friendship Society (LAFS) to help form a local response shaped by the specific needs of the region.
They had been working informally in the Lakes District since 2009, but felt that they needed the formal and legal framework of a society to meet the education, shelter and health needs of pets and their families in the Lakes District.
There are a many excellent animal resources in the district, but there is no organization like the BCSPCA to help with coordinating resources.
That’s where LAFS comes in.
“The vet clinic does a great job, but they can only do a limited amount,” said Schroff. “[They] have always had a low [cost] rate to support spay/neuter, but they couldn’t go out to help people transport their animals. So there was a hole there.”
Schroff said that challenges extend beyond the simple cost for service to include education and transportation. The society brings together resources already found within the region.
“We work with groups like the Canadian Animal Assistance Team and The Burns Lake Veterinary Clinic to help lower-income families have their pets spayed and neutered,” Schroff said.
Although the bulk of the society’s work falls on the shoulders of Ingram, Schroff and Nielson, they rely on many other volunteers to get work done. There are 11 listed members in the society, but many more are required for big events and throughout the year.
“We’re always looking for people who want to help in any way possible,” Schroff said.
Local schools have also contributed to the volunteer effort of LAFS.
“We also fix and insulate donated dog houses,” said Schroff. “When we started the dog house project in 2009, Valerie and I built 14 insulated houses on our own, using materials we purchased. This was very time-consuming and costly, so we shifted our focus to refurbishing donated dog houses.”
“The program got its biggest boost when Dirk Hofer at LDSS modified a one-plywood sheet doghouse design and had his class build 30 dog houses, which were then painted by Susan Russell’s class at Grassy Plains School. The residential building maintenance class at CNC Southside built 14 more. This brought us up to over 90 insulated dog houses used by dogs and cats in need around our community.”
The society works with groups like the Mother Millie Fund and the Simond’s Cat Sanctuary, both at the Burns Lake Veterinary Clinic, and the Turtle Gardens Animal Rescue and dog shelter in Topley. Members of LAFS will sometimes foster pets locally to help ease the burden on these and other organizations.
“We are very conscious of building and maintaining relationships with other animal welfare groups, First Nations, municipal governments, and the provincial government,” said Schroff. “There are too few resources to deal with the animal welfare issues locally and beyond, so our goal is not to reinvent the wheel but to be as effective as we can with the resources available.”
This year LAFS has released a music recording called, ‘Teach My Person How to Love me’. Ingram and Schroff brought 25 people together for a workshop led by Lowry Olafson, a song-writer and musician.
“Animal rescuers, adopters, members of local First Nations, a Regional District board member and others who just love animals worked together to produce lyrics that help pet guardians understand what their pets need,” said Schroff. “The goal is mainly to raise awareness about proper animal care and our activities in a fun way.”
The song, which has gone international, is available around town or by request. No charge is being made for the CD, but donations to LAFS are welcomed. The easiest way to make a donation is by mail or through an online donation. The LAFS website is www.lakesanimalfriendship.ca.
Another spay/neuter clinic is planned for early June, 2013. The clinic dates are not finalized yet.
Having your pet spayed or neutered is one of the most important thing you can do to help keep the pet population healthy.
“Over-population is a problem, but unneutered males are more likely to bite and harm people as well,” said Schroff.
Schroff and Ingram also run a B&B on the Southside. Half the proceeds from the business go to support LAFS, and they use the B&B to house the veterinary team that arrives for the spay/neuter events.