Nearly 60 per cent of Canadian families now include pets, but roughly half of those pets do not have an ongoing relationship with a veterinarian. Lack of access to veterinary care in Canada is disproportionately experienced in Indigenous communities where the nearest veterinarian may be several hours away. The national shortage of veterinarians adds to the complexity of accessing pet care in historically excluded communities. To help address this issue, PetSmart Charities of Canada™, the leading funder of animal welfare in the country, has launched an innovative grant program to support the unique needs of communities by working alongside them.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada identified concerns in health inequities among Indigenous communities across Canada. Social determinants of health, or the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn and work affect their quality of life. When a lack of access to health services, food, housing, transportation, and education impacts Indigenous Peoples, it is likely the same will be true for access to veterinary care for the pets in that community.
PetSmart Charities of Canada’s program includes two grant phases. This year, grants have been awarded to 9 organizations to work in collaboration with Indigenous communities. The 9 organizations participating in the first phase of the grant program include:
- Brant County SPCA - Six Nations, ON
- Canadian Animal Assistance Team – Pelly’s Crossing, YT
- Georgian Triangle Humane Society - Saugeen First Nation, ON
- Paws for Hope Animal Foundation - Huu-Ay-Aht First Nations, BC
- Thompson Humane Society – Nisichawayasihk (NCN) and Nelson House, MB
- Toronto Animal Services - Toronto, ON
- Tsay Keh Dene First Nation - Tsay Keh, BC
- Veterinarians Without Borders - Igloolik and Gjoa Haven, NU
- Winnipeg Humane Society - South Indian Lake, MB
Access to Veterinary Care is a Health Equity Issue
“We believe that every family should be able to benefit from the joy of pets — and that all pets should have access to adequate veterinary care,” said Aimee Gilbreath, president of PetSmart Charities of Canada. “Pets should not be a luxury or privilege, and all communities need the expertise of veterinary practitioners. We’re so excited about the potential of this program to increase access to culturally sensitive care that meets the needs of Indigenous populations in each of these communities.”
Many Indigenous communities in Canada have limited or no access to veterinary services. This first grant phase is focused on building relationships with members in each community to better understand the unique needs of each to support pet health. The second grant phase for this cohort begins in 2024 and will leverage the learnings from the first grant phase to support increased access to veterinary care in each community.
“This grant is supporting critical work to provide remote communities access to veterinary services,” said Yvonne Kipling, One Health Specialist at Winnipeg Humane Society, a program grant recipient. “Canadians love their pets like family, and at times struggle to provide basic veterinary services due to lack of access. This grant has assisted us to build relationships with community members, and determine what services are needed most. It is rare for remote communities to have the opportunity to discuss their needs with animal care agencies, and we have seen a positive response so far. We’re grateful for PetSmart Charities of Canada, and its visionary approach in access to care for Canadians.”
Multi-Pronged Approach to Improving Access to Veterinary Care
These grants are just one component of PetSmart Charities of Canada’s $18 million commitment, over five years, to improve access to veterinary care across Canada. This commitment will tackle many challenges that contribute to this issue including the veterinary shortage, regulatory challenges, a lack of affordable care and/or payment models, and more.
PetSmart Charities estimates it would cost more than $5 billion annually to bridge the gap for pets in need of veterinary care under the current system. To help lead the charge, the nonprofit is taking a leadership role in marshaling partners and stakeholders to develop and execute solutions to solving the gap in veterinary care access, including grant programs such as this one.
For more information on how PetSmart Charities of Canada is working to expand access to veterinary care nationwide or to help support initiatives like this for pets and their families, visit PetSmartCharities.ca.
About PetSmart Charities of Canada™
PetSmart Charities of Canada is committed to making the world a better place for pets and all who love them. Through its in-store adoption program in all PetSmart® stores across the country, PetSmart Charities of Canada helps thousands of pets connect with loving families each year. PetSmart Charities of Canada also provides grant funding to support organizations that advocate and care for the well-being of all pets and their families. Our grants and efforts connect pets with loving homes through adoption, improve access to affordable veterinary care and support families in times of crisis with access to food, shelter, and emergency relief. Each year, thousands of generous supporters help pets in need by donating to PetSmart Charities of Canada directly at PetSmartCharities.ca, while shopping at PetSmart.ca, and by using the PIN pads at checkout registers inside PetSmart stores. In turn, PetSmart Charities of Canada efficiently uses more than 90 cents of every dollar donated to fulfill its role as the leading funder of animal welfare in Canada, granting more than $25 million since its inception in 1999. Independent from PetSmart LLC, PetSmart Charities of Canada is a registered Canadian charity. To learn more visit www.PetSmartCharities.ca.
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