GTHS to Address Lack of Accessible Veterinary Care in Historically Excluded Community with Support from PetSmart Charities of Canada


May 30, 2023— COLLINGWOOD, ON – The Georgian Triangle Humane Society (GTHS) has received a grant from PetSmart Charities of Canada™ in the amount of $60,000 to address challenges in accessing veterinary care in Saugeen First Nation, located in Southampton, ON.

Rising costs combined with geographical and cultural barriers have left many communities out of the veterinary care system altogether. This grant program supports innovative and culturally relevant veterinary programs focused on Indigenous communities, which have been historically excluded from veterinary care.

Early in 2023, PetSmart Charities of Canada, the top funder of animal welfare in the country, announced an $18 million commitment over the next five years toward improving access to veterinary care. The “Incubator” grant program, focused on changing how to support veterinary care in historically excluded Indigenous communities, is a significant pillar of that commitment.

“Saugeen First Nation is identified as one of the closest Indigenous communities to our general catchment area and based on our initial conversations with the residents of this community, many pet owners have stated they are ‘in need’ of essentials, such as pet supplies, veterinary care and access to institutions or services that provide those things,” explains Sonya Reichel, GTHS executive director. “We believe that by increasing access to care for communities like Saugeen First Nation, the bar is raised for all animals. We are so appreciative of this grant from PetSmart Charities Canada, as it will help the GTHS support pet owning families and individuals in this community with the goal of keeping pets and people together, which we know has a profound positive effect on mental, physical, and emotional health.”

While nearly 60% of Canadian households include pets, access to basic veterinary services has not kept pace. This is particularly felt in Indigenous communities that have additional barriers beyond cost, including cultural barriers and a lack of veterinary services in the vicinity. In Indigenous regions, pets play important roles in their communities, but accessing resources to keep animals healthy can be challenging.

With reconciliation considerations integrated into the approach, grantees will build relationships and assess specific needs before helping to design long-term veterinary services. This ensures that communities that have been left out are deliberately included in deciding how and when they will access the healthcare they need for their pets.

“Nearly 1 in 5 Canadians struggle to access even basic preventative care such as spay/neuter procedures, vaccinations and annual exams,” said Kate Atema, director of community grants & initiatives at PetSmart Charities of Canada. “While this issue affects families in nearly every community, those who have been historically excluded from human social services are most in need of pet services. We’re proud to support an innovative approach that meets the unique needs identified by those with lived experiences that have struggled to gain access to veterinary care themselves.”

To-Date, the GTHS has worked with Saugeen First Nation in a limited capacity, by delivering pet food to their community food bank through their Pet Pantry program, and providing spay/neuter surgeries, when possible, with the goal of assisting people to retain their pets when experiencing financial difficulties. Since receiving the incubator grant from PetSmart Charities of Canada, the GTHS has hosted a Community BBQ for residents of Saugeen First Nation to start building a relationship based on mutual respect, kindness, generosity, and trust. Residents were able to share their needs and barriers with respect to animal care, and the GTHS is currently planning a follow-up visit to assist in addressing some of those barriers through the implementation of a mini-wellness clinic.

Stay informed on GTHS events, initiatives and programs. Learn how the GTHS team is serving the pets and people of the South Georgian Bay Area. Read heart-warming Happy Tails about GTHS Alumni. See a lot of really cute pictures of dogs and cats!