Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, with fur and without, with two legs and with four. The BC SPCA honoured a wide range of diverse heroes at the society’s annual awards ceremony, held at a special dinner event on May 5 in Richmond.
From outstanding volunteers and staff members to incredible community partners, from veterinarians who tirelessly donate their time and skills to brave animals who have courageously overcome suffering and abuse, this year’s awards recognize human and furry recipients from communities throughout British Columbia.
“This year’s awards recipients lead by example and showcase all the many reasons why our work is so rewarding,” says BC SPCA chief executive officer Craig Daniell.
“I am constantly amazed and humbled by the outstanding staff, volunteers, community partners, supporters and others who help us save the province’s most vulnerable animals.”
This year’s winners are:
Veterinarian of the Year
The team at Van Isle Veterinary Hospital in the Comox Valley always goes above and beyond to help the animals in the BC SPCA’s care. Since opening their doors in 2001, the entire team has been strong advocates for homeless and abused animals. They generously donate their time or provide significantly discounted prices to the SPCA and regularly work overtime on BC SPCA animals at no cost. Their dedication to the community’s most vulnerable animals and their ongoing support has helped save so many animal lives. Van Isle Veterinary Hospital staff have fostered animals, assisted with animal cruelty seizures and even professionally groomed SPCA animals at no charge. In addition, the hospital sponsors and supports BC SPCA fundraising events each year.
Volunteer of the Year
Melvin Chan, a dedicated animal lover, has been with the BC SPCA for five years and is currently volunteer coordinator at the society’s Port Coquitlam Education & Adoption Centre. An amazing animal advocate, Melvin is passionate about what he does and is invaluable to the branch’s operation with everything he does behind the scenes with volunteer coordination and training sessions. Melvin is always willing to go above and beyond, taking on a variety of tasks at any time, including being the chair of the volunteer management committee, arranging and running a number of workshops, working on social media and even leading training and orientation sessions to help volunteers at other SPCA centres, such as Maple Ridge and Surrey. He frequently stays beyond his shift and often comes in on days he is not scheduled. He also takes time to train animals in care to increase their adoptability and increase their welfare, especially smaller animals.
Kelowna-based senior SPCA cruelty investigator Kathy Woodward is one of this year’s recipients of the BC SPCA’s Leadership Award. The Leadership Award was created to recognize the outstanding achievements of individuals who go the extra mile to achieve the society’s goals, and to lead and inspire others to live out the mission and the purpose of the BC SPCA. In her 23 years with the BC SPCA, Kathy has overseen thousands of animal cruelty investigations and saved countless animal lives. While Kathy’s role as senior animal protection officer for the Okanagan is very demanding in itself, with more than 1,500 cruelty complaints in the region last year, she also took on responsibility for the entire Kootenay region in 2016 after a colleague went on long-term disability. This is an overwhelming responsibility, but Kathy accepted the extra work without complaint, ensuring that all investigations in both regions were carried out professionally and that charges were put forward to Crown counsel. This feat is especially impressive because Kathy was dealing with a personal tragedy at the time – the serious illness and death of her husband. Her leadership under such duress speaks volumes about her strength and character, and she is truly deserving of this award.
BC SPCA Sunshine Coast Branch manager Cindy Krapiec is one of this year’s recipients of the BC SPCA’s Leadership Award. Cindy leads by example daily, a tireless advocate for not only the animals in her care, but also, for her staff and volunteers. Cindy’s door is always open and she treats everyone with the same respect and attention, whether it’s someone involved with a cruelty complaint, asking about adoption, or a volunteer needing help. Always willing to participate in extracurricular events such as pop-up booths, bakes sales or community parades, Cindy attends as many public events as is humanly possible, always cheerfully representing the shelter and the BC SPCA. For the Sunshine Coast Branch – whose catchment area is roughly 3,800 square kilometres in size with a population of about 30,000 – 2016 was a challenging year, with several large-scale seizures and large numbers of animals needing help, all at once. Despite such a busy year, Cindy was calm and unflappable and always focused on the matter at hand. She is always working to make the shelter the best it can be and has gone above and beyond in her efforts countless times.
Humane Community Award
The College of Veterinarians of British Columbia (CVBC) was honoured with the BC SPCA’s Humane Community Award. In November last year, the CVBC’s members voted overwhelmingly in favour of banning cosmetic tail docking of dogs, horses and cattle and tail alteration in horses, a decision that followed an October 2015 vote and decision to ban cosmetic ear cropping procedures on dogs. Both decisions were enthusiastically supported by the BC SPCA, as they represent a big step forward in the humane treatment of animals throughout the province. There’s widespread recognition that these are cosmetic, unnecessary procedures that do not have any benefit whatsoever to the animal and in fact, existing research and anecdotal evidence from the veterinary community suggest there can be many behavioural and physiological complications associated with cosmetic and non-therapeutic alterations. Any individual who performs these now-banned procedures could now face charges under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
Media Excellence Award
The Broadcast Centre in Kamloops has been honoured with the BC SPCA’s 2017 Media Excellence Award. The exposure given to animal welfare issues by staff at the Broadcast Centre (CFJC TV, B-100 and 98.3 CIFM) has made a life-saving difference for homeless, abused, injured and neglected animals in Kamloops and surrounding regions. Members of the Broadcast Centre have been generous and longtime advocates of the BC SPCA Kamloops & District Branch – for the past 25 years CFJC TV has offered free air time to the branch for animal stories and campaigns, as well as highlighting adoptable animals. This awareness has had a significant and positive impact on animals in region. B-100 is a major sponsor of two large fundraising events – the annual BC SPCA Kamloops & District FurBall and the Scotiabank & BC SPCA Paws for a Cause walk – and provides emcee services for SPCA fundraising events. In addition the station offers regular broadcast time to promote SPCA events and activities.
Caring Company Award
PetSmart Charities™ of Canada was honoured with the BC SPCA Caring Company Award. A company with a long history of giving generously to the BC SPCA, PetSmart Charities™ of Canada has given more than $800,000 toward BC SPCA spay/neuter initiatives and events in recent years, helping the society combat the province’s cat overpopulation crisis – a key area identified in the BC SPCA’s five-year strategic plan (2014-2018). From a recent $78,385 grant to help spay and neuter 700 cats in Comox to a $157,920 grant in Campbell River that resulted in the sterilization of 1,500 cats in the area – and a decrease of cat intake by 45 per cent in the region – PetSmart Charities™ of Canada grants have had a huge impact on tackling cat overpopulation across B.C. The company also sponsors several BC SPCA events, from a Surrey cat adoption event last summer that saw 75 felines find ‘fur’ever homes to the BC SPCA’s leadership conference, which took place immediately prior to the BC SPCA Awards ceremony.
Jimmy Bean, a resilient little terrier who was close to death after being left in a dark, unheated storage room, was honoured with the BC SPCA’s Animal Courage Award. The five-month-old puppy was brought to the BC SPCA’s Port Alberni Branch in December 2016. His guardian surrendered the emaciated pup to the SPCA, claiming he had left him with his grandfather, who put him in a storage chamber under his house and forgot about him for more than a week. Jimmy Bean was barely alive, weighing only one kilogram and suffering from dehydration, hair loss and two dislocated shoulders when he was rushed by the SPCA to veterinarian Dr. Holly Tillotson. Tillotson says she feared the worst for the little pup, but he showed his fighting spirit, gaining strength quickly after being given small amounts of food every few hours to gradually reintroduce nutrition back into his system. Tillotson put his dislocated shoulders back into place but because of the dramatic loss of muscle they would pop out whenever Jimmy Bean tried to walk. When he arrived at the clinic, the caring veterinarian knew Jimmy Bean would need around-the-clock care, so she bundled him up and took him home. Fortunately for Jimmy Bean, she and her partner adopted the puppy shortly after. Tillotson says Jimmy Bean bonded immediately with his new family and the couple’s two other dogs. While Jimmy Bean enjoys his forever home, the BC SPCA is compiling evidence against the individual responsible for his abuse and will be recommending charges of animal cruelty in the case.
A Bernese Mountain dog seized with several others from a puppy mill earned this year’s BC SPCA Animal Hero Award. When local lawyer Chris Ness adopted Emily she was extremely nervous and scared at first, as well as emaciated and anaemic. Seized with 65 other animals from a puppy mill in Langley last February, dubbed the Langley 66, Emily is now helping others in her community as a therapy dog with St. John Ambulance. She has come a long way from the anxious dog Ness first met while volunteering as a dog walker for the Vancouver BC SPCA Branch. After finding pet-friendly housing, and with the support of his sister and her family, Ness decided to adopt Emily, who didn’t even know how to play when he first took her home. Gradually, Emily stopped flinching from sudden movements and learned to run and play simply for the joy of it. Noticing how Emily enjoyed meeting strangers, Ness realized her gentle, friendly approach and excellent behaviour made her a strong therapy dog candidate, and enrolled in the St. John Ambulance therapy dog program, where Emily excelled. She now is a regular visit to seniors living in care facilities and once she has enough experience and passes the next level of evaluation, Ness hopes to take her to visit sick children at BC Children’s Hospital and cancer treatment facilities. Ness says he’s looking forward to her therapy dog journey and can’t imagine his life without her.
Branch of the Year
The Cowichan & District SPCA took home this year’s BC SPCA Branch of the Year Award. Deciding which branch to recognize as BC SPCA Branch of the Year is never easy, but the Cowichan & District BC SPCA Branch, led by branch manager Sandi Trent, stands out because it has a truly dedicated team of staff and volunteers who go above and beyond for all of the animals in their care. They’re constantly engaged in community outreach to improve the lives of animals and the branch also has an active Community Council that helps support the branch and the society’s mission. The Cowichan SPCA had an amazing live release rate for animals in their care of 96 per cent in 2016, an amazing accomplishment. The branch also completed its financial year at 84 per cent over the branch fundraising budget and at 42 per cent above the budgeted adoption revenue. Trent and her staff and volunteers lead by example on a daily basis, making this a well-deserved award.