Animal advocates bring protection and alternative solutions to pet lovers
When Lonnie Powell and Jordan Illingworth first learned their Great Dane Floyd had been poisoned, they were told they would have to take him home — to say goodbye.
“His kidneys were shutting down and the vet said there was just nothing we could do — we would have to let him go,” says Powell. “But we don’t give up like that.”
The Ontario couple did take Floyd home, then called every animal care provider they could think of until they stumbled upon a naturopathic vet who offered an alternative solution to Floyd’s death sentence. With a mixture of herbal, organic and natural remedies, Floyd lived for two more years — he even made it out to the West Coast when Powell and Illingworth moved to Victoria.
It was that catalyst, and the pet-positive atmosphere of the Island, that made the two realize they found a new calling in life: to trade in their high-profile office jobs and dedicate their lives and finances to raising awareness around animal health, safety and the alternatives that often go unheard. Now, the two have joined forces with a third friend in the pet industry, Anne Lee, to create a registered society and the largest outdoor pet festival Victoria has ever seen: Pet-A-Palooza, coming to Ogden Point this Sunday, Aug. 12.
“I realized I don’t care how it happens — I just want everyone to work together so that animals can receive the help and care they deserve,” says Illingworth.
The BC SPCA has 265 animals available for adoption in Victoria right now. And while countless other pet rescue and animal adoption groups have sprung up around the city, the Capital Regional District’s pound offers one of the most classic looks at animals waiting behind bars. As of press time, the CRD is housing six dogs, 11 cats, 10 kittens, two rabbits, one budgie and a lone snake.
Seven years ago, Yoda, a purebred Teddy Bear Pomeranian, was abandoned by his owners and turned over to the pound. No one ever came to claim the dog, but Coral Henderson, now an administrative assistant at the pound, found her new best friend.
“That’s probably one of the biggest misconceptions that people have about animal adoption — that they are all mutts, or unruly, or need special training,” says Henderson. “All they really need is someone to love and take care of them, and they will give you more love back then you’ve ever experienced.”
Henderson says the hardest thing about working in the pound is wishing she could take every animal home. Summer is an especially hard time for pounds and rescue agencies, she says, as many people go on vacation and don’t want to adopt during the busy summer months.
The CRD pound does not euthanize animals unless health reasons make it necessary to do so, says Henderson. And costly health conditions are often involved when people abandon their animals. However, Henderson says animals are moved from the pound to alternative rescue agencies or foster care when possible, usually in a number of months.
“We do have volunteer dog walkers and cat brushers and people here to socialize the animals, but we try our best to get them a home as soon as possible,” she says.
For the cost of $145 for an adult cat and $280 for an adult dog (both of which includes the spay/neuter and shots), that animal in-need is more than a deal.
Robin Hood of pets
Adoption takes on a new meaning, however, when agencies have their hands tied. A few months ago, a friend came to Powell to alert him about Brutus, a young Pit Bull cross he knew was being abused and used as a fighting bait animal.
Because the dog was not being visibly abandoned or neglected, and since the fighting was well hidden, Powell says the authorities could not remove the animal from its home. In a vigilante-like effort, the friends located Brutus and convinced his owner to sell the dog.
Brutus was then adopted by a family with a farm on the Malahat and, nearly two months later, has turned from a scared and underweight animal to a bouncy and people-friendly pooch.
“It’s not a good system, but so many of our systems that are set out to protect pets are flawed in Canada, and you do what you have to for those who don’t have a voice,” says Powell. “Brutus, I think, is our biggest success story.”
Pet adoption — in the more traditional sense — is at the forefront of Powell, Illingworth and Lee’s event. The trio, which registered themselves as the Just Love Animals Society (J.L.A.), has a goal to adopt out 300 animals at Pet-A-Palooza with the help of various adoption agencies in Victoria. The group is also hosting an active petition to earn 10,000 signatures to stop the sale of animals at retail stores.
Along with the adoption initiative, and in an effort to put a stop to unnecessary animal abandonment, J.L.A. is launching a “Critical Illness Fund” — a grant program that will allow in-need pet owners to apply for monetary assistance when vet bills and pet health care becomes unaffordable. A “Clips For the Cure” booth at Pet-A-Palooza will offer the services of pet beauticians to owners who want to trim and primp their pooches for donation to the fund.
But while the event has a serious side, there’s plenty of fun to be had. A “Running Of The Bulls” will showcase the fastest bull dogs on the Island who dare to enter the competition, while Zulu Dog K9 Services will offer pet photography all day long. And the fun isn’t just for pets — a TNT Paintball challenge will keep kids entertained, while the beer garden sponsored by Vancouver Island Brewery will be sure to soften everyone’s bark. With 35,000 square-feet of vendors and pet service, including 25 non-profit booths and clinics on the benefits of holistic health care for pets, the day promises to be a rowdy affair.
“There are 60,000 registered dogs in [Greater] Victoria alone. Our mission is really to bring together the incredible pet community here, and show people that there are more resources out there than you may even know about,” says Powell. “People don’t come to the Island to eat fast food and die — they care about their health, and they want those options for their pets as well.” M
Check out Pet-A-Palooza Sunday, Aug. 12, 10am-8pm at Ogden Point. All pets and owners are welcome to this free event. Learn more at jlasociety.com.