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Reflections on community coming together

By Eyal Lichtmann

Published 12:23 PDT, Mon May 25, 2020

This year is unprecedented in living memory. The COVID-19 pandemic and its associated health, social and economic consequences have presented everyone worldwide with unprecedented challenges. This includes hardships for animals, especially those caring for hundreds of animals that do not have homes.

Amid all the bad, though, have been so many stories of human kindness, co-operation and stepping up in the best way to help animals and their people.

This year also happens to be the 25th anniversary of the Regional Animal Protection Society. What began in 1995 as a tiny group of dedicated volunteers, has grown into one of Canada’s largest and most innovative no-kill animal-serving organizations. 

For me and many in the RAPS family, this has been a time of reflection. Just as this unprecedented time of social distancing has demonstrated the best and...not so human beings, looking back at our history as an organization, we remember challenges and unavoidable heartbreaking choices. But what stands out above all are the stories of resilience in animals—and the humanity in people who have stepped up to save and improve the lives of animals.

During these times, we have happy story of resilience and commitment of frontline workers and volunteers. Just last month, 50 cats and kittens were rescued by RAPS from a situation in Richmond. This “springtime surprise” included several pregnant mamas, so the number in the rescue group is now 71...with another litter on the way. Again, the community has come together. First, foster families stepped up to care for pregnant moms and babies. Then the adoption applications came pouring in. 

Other challenging times, as readers will remember, include the tragic outbreak of rabbit hemorrhagic disease, which swept across British Columbia and elsewhere two years ago. This highly infectious virus leads to a horrific death. When it was detected on the premises of the RAPS City of Richmond Animal Shelter, we were forced to humanely euthanize all 65 rabbits in our care. Particularly because we are a no-kill agency, this tragic event devastated staff and volunteers. A consolation was the outpouring of kindness from members of our community who shared our grief.

Another example of our community stepping up is Isabelle, a beautiful dog who was severely burned in a home fire at Christmastime 2016. In another jurisdiction, Isabelle would have been euthanized. RAPS called on the community for support and provided Isabelle with the medical care and support she needed to recover and go on to live a happy life.

Every time we face a challenging situation—when dozens of dogs were dumped in our parking lot in the dark of night in pouring rain, when we are alerted to a litter of puppies, kittens or bunnies who have been orphaned and need immediate rescue, when we rescued Donut, a dog who was locked in a suitcase in the middle of the woods, when called to a tragic road accident involving domestic or wild animals—our staff and volunteers do not respond alone. We know that we operate with the support and love of a community alongside us. And for that RAPS is grateful.

Perhaps it is because of the unusual nature of our lives right now that I’ve been reflecting on the dichotomy of challenges being met with the kindness of our community. As we slowly move into the next phase of this pandemic situation, and as RAPS prepares for our second quarter-century, let’s keep in mind the silver linings that inevitably flow from challenges. All of this is possible when—and only because—a community comes together and we are all there for the animals and their people. 

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

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