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Helping animals … and their people

By Eyal Lichtmann

Published 2:42 PDT, Thu April 29, 2021

Last Updated: 2:13 PDT, Wed May 12, 2021

A person who is experiencing domestic violence is likely to remain in the situation longer or return to it sooner if there is a pet in the house. This disturbing fact is one of many indications of the unintended consequences on humans of housing policies that discriminate against companion animals.

A review done a couple of years ago indicated that, of Canada’s 452 women’s shelters, just eight accept pets. There is little reason to believe that much of significance has changed since then. 

RAPS advocates with governments to encourage pet-friendly policies. Especially in a housing market like Metro Vancouver’s, policies that discriminate against animals have tangible and sometimes catastrophic effects on families. 

For several years now, RAPS has recognized that the key to helping animals is helping their people too. More animals would be rescued if we could simply find ways of helping their guardians also. This is true across the board. But it is especially true for households facing economic or other hardships.

Richmond is fortunate to be home to many superb social service agencies, including emergency shelters and temporary housing. RAPS is working with these organizations to ensure that households with animals do not fall through the cracks.

RAPS works with superb organizations like Chimo Community Services and Salvation Army’s Richmond House to provide care and support to people and their animals. Residents who have pets come to us for routine and urgent veterinary care. Through our RAPS Thrift Stores, we also provide clothing, household furnishing and kitchenware to people forced to rehome. In addition, compassionate boarding and fostering is available for animals in households that find themselves temporarily homeless or otherwise unable to remain together.

At the RAPS Animal Hospital, we also have programs to ease the burden on households—even those not facing emergencies. As a community asset, our goal is to provide the maximum services we can to the community. With recent reports that a shocking number of Canadian families are just a few hundred dollars from insolvency, an unanticipated vet bill can be a terrible burden. RAPS offers partial or wholly subsidized veterinary care or we provide no-interest wellness payment plans. Over the past three years RAPS has provided millions of dollars in subsidized care to animals.

Animals deserve care in their own right. But we recognize that caring for them means caring for their people too. We are able to do this because we have the support of a community who understands the centrality of animals in the lives of humans and that by caring for the humans, we get to care for the animals. RAPS is constantly looking for new, innovative ways to help animals and their people and look forward to partnering with more community service agencies.

Eyal Lichtmann is CEO and executive director of the Regional Animal Protection Society.

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