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“When people suffer, animals suffer;” bridging the gap between crisis and care through pet welfare

by | Jan 31, 2024 | Downtown, News | 3 comments

The Alberta SPCA’s One Family Welfare department offers temporary care for pets so their owners can get the help they need to deal with crisis situations. Patricia Mamak, the director of this department, sheds light on the connection between domestic violence, family upheaval, and the well-being of our pets. 

“Pets are not just animals; they are cherished members of the family,” says Mamak. The emotional bond between owners and their pets becomes a lifeline, making it incredibly hard for individuals to take that crucial step towards seeking help when they feel their pets are at risk. 

In 2012, Mamak and her team conducted a study that interviewed various rural shelters for women in Alberta. Almost 60 per cent of women with animals hesitated to leave their abusers, fearing harm to the animal. They had also found that about 85 per cent of threats against these animals were carried out by the abuser.

“A lot of the time, without the animal, that person would not be able to go on,” Mamak notes. “The perpetrator knows that this animal means the world to them, so it’s the perfect weapon.”

Recognizing the need to support victims of family violence and their animal companions, the SPCA has implemented programs such as the Pet Safekeeping Program. “We provide temporary accommodations for animals that belong to survivors of family violence” Mamak explains.

The initiatives go beyond shelter, offering a range of services. Different programming, including safety planning, crisis intervention, and established relationships with various agencies, form a comprehensive support system. Additionally, the SPCA is dedicated to supervising confidential support, ensuring that individuals facing family violence have access to a secure network of assistance. 

When animals are reunited with their owners, they leave with supplies tailored to their specific needs, including the food they’ve been on, beds, toys, and essentials for the particular species. The welfare packages are customized, acknowledging the diversity of animals in the program. The SPCA also provides a resource package with phone numbers and information for the individual.

As the One Family Welfare department works to support both human and animal victims, Mamak finds inspiration in the love between individuals and their animals. She shares, “A lot of the time, the updates and photos we send individuals of their pets give them hope. This is the best part of the work that we do. We deal with a lot of difficult situations but seeing the love that the person has for their animal and the love the animal has for their person is really amazing to see.” 

Mamak emphasizes the crucial role of community support and ways people can contribute. “We always need new pet care items, especially kennels and carriers, food, and bedding. Monetary donations are also incredibly helpful because that’s what allows us to provide medical care.” When people donate to the SPCA for these programs, that money will directly and immediately help these animals. Mamak explains, “Without the monetary donations and all the hard work that our fundraising team puts together, there’s no way we’d be able to help animals or people in this province.” 

Melanie Wright

The Griff


  1. Gryffin

    Very well put

  2. Cameron Longman

    Thanks for sharing this story! This was super interesting to read and I’m glad that you shed some light on those situations

    • Barrack Obama

      Very well written! Bringing awareness to an organization I myself wasn’t even aware of.


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