The Amazing Victoria Humane Society

by Janice Henshaw – 

Adopted from The Victoria Humane Society (VHS), George (left) is one lucky fella! His new owner, Seaside Magazine‘s publisher and owner Sue Hodgson, says her furry pal is almost four months old and growing like a weed. Sue is an experienced dog owner but says it’s still a surprise when you bring home a new puppy and, among other things, have some sleep-deprived nights. Walks, bathroom breaks, feeding, playtime – your usual way of life is turned upside down. On the other hand, Sue says it’s been a great experience for her. “George is adorable and a lot of fun!” Like many of us, she has found that having a pet helps fill the empty spaces left behind when our young adults leave the nest. The wag of a dog’s tail in welcome or the comforting purr from a contented cat in our lap can bring us great joy and solace.

If you are a volunteer or have adopted a pet from the VHS, you know firsthand the excellent work this non-profit organization achieves. Here are some numbers – in 2023, VHS rescued and adopted out 1,321 dogs and cats! They have a remarkable 98% adoption success rate. Currently, they have 80 dogs and 120 cats in foster care who have been transported in from all over Vancouver Island. This month, they expect a shipment of over 30 puppies arriving from Northern Saskatchewan.

To find out why so many pets have been surrendered, I met with two dedicated volunteers at the VHS Shelter, Michelle Tinis and Bonita Joe. They put in countless hours helping out wherever they are needed – pet care, shelter cleaning, transport intakes, laundry (there’s a lot of it), fundraising, spay and neutering clinics and adoption events. “Pets are given up for several reasons, with cost being a significant factor – the increasing expense of vet bills, pet food and supplies, and higher living costs.” Unfortunately, some people must give up their beloved pets due to work or a home rental situation.

To find out more about the VHS, let’s pretend for a moment that we are a litter of abandoned puppies that have been transported in. We are scared! And hungry! And dirty from being in a cage for too long. We are greeted by a caring volunteer who persuades us to come out and welcomes us with open arms. Such a lovely, comforting feeling! Once calm, we are gently bathed and dried, brushed, given flea medicine and offered some delicious food. If we are injured, we are taken to a vet for treatment. Life is suddenly wonderful! We have our photos taken for the VHS website, Instagram and Facebook, and then, most wonderful of all, we meet our foster parents who take us to their home and with patience and caring, teach us social skills, help us gain confidence and have fun playing together until we find our forever home. At the appropriate time, we are spayed or neutered and given our first set of vaccinations. Over 80% of animals that come to VHS require these services, which are done onsite by local vets, vet techs and volunteers.

Executive Director Penny Stone, together with many like-minded individuals, started the Victoria Humane Society in 2013. “We’ve become a tight-knit village, though sometimes it feels like we’re all warriors on a mission.” The VHS rescues hundreds of animals yearly, which adds up to thousands over the years. How is all this loving care possible? “We manage this thanks to the incredible support of our donors, our 200 foster families and the dedication of our 300 kind-hearted volunteers, who juggle countless roles with grace.”

The Victoria Humane Society’s greatest dream? To find and purchase a property of at least five acres on southern Vancouver Island to establish a permanent shelter, says Penny. “A place where animals can take a breather and find their perfect foster and forever homes as we get to know them better. It’s all about living our slogan of ‘let the love begin.'” This is a wonderful, heart-warming opportunity to help Penny and her dedicated volunteers turn their dream into reality. Volunteers, foster families, and donations are all greatly needed! Every gift, large or small, helps the VHS give these adorable critters the opportunity for a better life. Check out their website to find out how you can help – there are countless ways!

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” ~ Anatole France

Photo of George by Sue Hodgson (left); other photo courtesy VHS (right).

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