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It Takes a Community to Run an Animal Shelter

The importance of recognizing the hard work that goes into this fundamental element of society



Photo via Le Canada Français

by Kyra Clark


Domestic animal shelters play a key role in our society to help improve the welfare and safety of all pets that come through their doors. The identity of an animal shelter is not only about the puppies and kitties, it can also be about the staff, volunteers and supportive communities who help save them. According to Dr. Vincent Paradis, President of the Quebec Veterinary Association for Animal Shelter Medicine,‘‘In general, domestic animal shelters will usually receive animals that are unwanted or in need of help, and they will give them a second chance at life and essentially try to save them.’’ Animals end up in shelters for a variety of reasons, including abandonment by owners, police matters, accidents, and strays. 


There are some misconceptions surrounding shelters, which are often spread through misinformation and comments online. One of these prejudices that Dr. Paradis would like to correct is the ‘‘impression that animal shelters are sad, unprofessional, and badly-managed institutions.” He affirms that “while there are still some shelters that are poorly managed, the majority of the big shelters operate well and in a very professional way.’’ 

Animal shelters strive to find the next step in the lives of all the animals they receive. Regarding his role as the Director of Clinical Care at the Proanima shelter in Boucherville, Dr. Paradis indicated that the most rewarding parts of his job was ‘‘knowing that if I was not there, all the animals that I presently see on a daily basis, would probably not have a solution or any alternatives and would probably be sent right to euthanasia.’’ He adds, ‘‘I work in a business that values its employees; people come to work happy to be there and happy to adhere to the mission of the shelter.’’ 


Animal shelters look for people who are competent and who have a solid foundation of knowledge in their field. Dr. Paradis argues, however, that one’s attitude, punctuality, professionalism, and communication skills are just as important.  He states that “someone who has a bad attitude, even if they are intelligent and very good at what they do, still will not be able to bring something positive to a team. Someone who is a good, self-aware person, however, can be taught to acquire competencies.”  


"Other ways someone can help their local animal shelters is by doing publicity on social media, making donations to fund health costs and finance special programs, or talking about the shelter with their close friends and family."

Proanima has about 240 volunteers. Volunteers perform a variety of tasks such as walking the dogs, playing with cats to help socialize them, and helping with administrative tasks, among others. Professional volunteers such as lawyers, journalists, notaries, marketing, and communication specialists are always needed to help reduce costs. Some veterinarians also volunteer their time. Dr. Paradis explains that ‘‘professionals offering competencies that a shelter might not have in their tool box can really help out.” 


Another way to help the shelter is by adopting a pet. Dr. Paradis cautions that there are things to consider before adopting an animal: ‘‘one must look at their current lifestyle, and what they are thinking about doing, like where they want to go in life in the next ten to twenty years.’’ He highlights that life can become unpredictable. ‘‘Adopting an animal at 18 might seem like the best thing in someone’s life, but their life path and where they plan to go in in the next few years are important to consider,” he emphasizes. 


Other ways someone can help their local animal shelters is by doing publicity on social media, making donations to fund health costs and finance special programs, or talking about the shelter with their close friends and family. According to Dr. Paradis, these simple actions can help “create a big community that supports the shelter”.

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