Thanks to their generous donors, PetSmart Charities of Canada is the top funder of animal welfare in Canada, supporting more than 160 local animal welfare partners. We got to speak with Aimee Gilbreath, President of PetSmart Charities of Canada, to find out more about them.
Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.
PetSmart Charities of Canada is the top funder of animal welfare in Canada. Thanks to generous donors at PetSmart during checkout in-store and online, we support more than 160 local animal welfare partners in their work to connect and support pets and people.
Since 1999, PetSmart Charities of Canada has made nearly $28 million in grants and helped more than 350,000 pets find homes.
We also support the alleviation of pet food insecurity and the integration of pets into disaster response plans.
In light of evolving needs in the animal welfare space, PetSmart Charities of Canada made a renewed commitment to improving access to veterinary care to ensure pets live long, healthy lives and stay in the homes where they’re loved.
What problem does it aim to solve?
In Canada, millions of pets lack access to the veterinary care they need – things like vaccinations, annual exams and spay and neuter procedures – that help keep them healthy and in their homes.
Part of the problem is due to affordability, but there are also many locations across Canada where little or no veterinary practices exist, making access difficult. As a result, many pets face minor issues that become bigger and more costly down the road, making their care unaffordable for many loving families.
PetSmart Charities of Canada’s work is focused on systemic change to support local community changemakers and to help build innovative, sustainable solutions in the veterinary and pet community.
We work with partner organizations across the country, like the Toronto Humane Society, to support their community programs to provide accessible veterinary care to pet parents in and surrounding different communities.
This year we awarded the Toronto Humane Society $150,000 in grant funding to help an estimated 2,000 pets get the care they need!
When did you start/join it?
I joined the team in 2020 and led the team virtually for the first 18 months!
What made you want to get involved?
Growing up, I had every pet you could possibly imagine; I have always adored animals. When I moved to Los Angeles early in my career, it was the first time I didn’t have a pet in my household, and I missed those interactions. To fill the void, I looked for pet-related volunteer opportunities — which led me to the world of animal welfare, shelters, and rescue groups. After a career in the private sector, I felt a pull for more meaningful work and decided to pursue what I was passionate about. This path eventually led me to PetSmart Charities of Canada, and the rest is history!
What was the situation like when you started?
I started at the height of the pandemic, so I had to make connections with the team virtually for 18 months. As an organization, we recognized that the animal welfare movement had made great strides. In 2019, more than 80% of dogs and 72% of cats in shelters had positive outcomes. Our research revealed, however, that the most pressing, emerging issue was that veterinary care was out of reach for so many pet parents. When pet families cannot access care, minor problems may get bigger, pet quality of life may suffer, and in extreme circumstances, families may be forced to surrender their beloved companions. We knew we could marshal the ideas, energy and commitment from donors, partners and other funders in the space to drive leading-edge change.
How has it changed since?
I’m proud of how quickly and thoughtfully our community grants team has executed our new strategy to increase grant funding to support access to veterinary care.
Adoptions will always be at the core of how our grants bolster local support, but as the leading funder in animal welfare, we knew we could help address the systemic change necessary to ensure improved access to veterinary care. Driving meaningful change here is a long-term project, but we already have several grants in the field supporting vulnerable families and their pets, and we are learning how to grow and scale these programs.
What more needs to be done?
Pets have become universally recognized as important members of the family, and pet parents want to do the very best for them. However, we have reached a critical tipping point. The rising costs of vet care, a shortage of providers and a lack of accessible locations for veterinary care mean there is a crisis brewing. So long as there are pet parents who are not connected to the resources they need to care for their pets, there is more work to be done.
How can our readers help?
Many people who love pets also choose to make provisions for PetSmart Charities of Canada during estate planning.
Where can we follow you?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?
We want to give a shout-out to East Village Animal Hospital; they’re providing quality veterinary care at an affordable cost. We really admire their work!