The Red Deer and District SPCA relies heavily on volunteers to help keep the organization running, and any and all persons are welcome to take part.
Leigha Boutilier, volunteer coordinator, explained they have a specific program for persons with disabilities and that it is a very popular program here in the City.
“This program gives them the ability to come in on a weekly basis and gives them something to look forward to and they feel purposeful. We need them and want them here to work with the community’s animals,” said Boutilier.
The program is not geared towards any specific disabilities.
“We had volunteers in the past in wheelchairs who wanted to be involved with the dogs but can’t walk them, so we gave them access to the outside space where they could let the dog run but still be contained and they could interact.”
The program also benefits both the volunteers and the SPCA, said Boutilier.
She said staff don’t always have the time to play with the animals so they rely on the volunteers to help socialize the animals. As an added benefit the volunteers learn how to handle animals and care for them as well. The program has 30 active volunteers.
The program is based highly on what the individual feels they are comfortable doing as well as what they’re willing to do. “We have some in dog walking that double leash the dog with their aid, others who like cat cuddling and stress busting or the administrative things like kong stuffing and coin rolling.”
The stress busting program is fairly new to the SPCA and is designed to give the dogs an extra hour or two away from their kennels where they receive non-stop affection and time to run around.
“The volunteers learn how to relax the animals and brush them, too. It’s not a high risk situation for the volunteer where the dog could get away, but for the dog it’s extra time spent having fun.”
Boutilier said the cat-cuddling program is also very popular for the volunteers with disabilities. “It’s a weekly commitment and is nice because it’s something they can always look forward to.”
Boutilier said any of the programs are beneficial to the animals because the more socialized the animal are, the more adoptable they become.
“We get dogs that don’t know what it’s like to be around people or on a leash but after having all of our staff and volunteers around they get to a point where we can adopt them out into a new home.”
Boutilier said the program also benefits the volunteers because they get to interact with the other volunteers. “We schedule three volunteers in each time slot where possible. A lot of our cat cuddlers don’t even want their aids with them. They go in and interact with the cats and other volunteers.”
Boutilier said the biggest benefit from the program is the community involvement.
“We have now provided an opportunity for everyone to get involved and this not only helps our animals but it helps us continue running.”
Many of the volunteers get involved because they live in homes where they can’t have pets or because they’ve recently lost a pet.
“By coming here, they’re able to get that feeling they’re missing and the affection an animal provides. We all get attached to the animals.”
For more information, call 403-342-7722 or visit www.reddeerspca.com.