Animal nonprofits in Calgary report wave of harassment: ‘It was pretty stressful, scary’ – Calgary

A decline in donations, dwindling volunteers and an increase in demand — that’s what some Calgary not-for-profit animal organizations say they’ve seen in recent months.

But it also comes with something else: “a discouraging increase in abuse of our volunteers, harassment, harm, vandalism,” according to Parachutes for Pets founder Melissa David, who says they deal with it on a daily basis.

“It’s pretty stressful, scary and expensive as a charity right now.”

“Our volunteers are fantastic — they’ve essentially helped us through five waves of COVID(-19),” said David. But in the last two months there has been a shift.

“They’re being yelled at… verbal abuse. Sometimes we threw things at our volunteers.

“I was recently told to kill myself when I couldn’t grab a basket within a few hours. I got it, but just couldn’t get it in that time frame — we’re all volunteers.”

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David knows times are tough. She sees it first hand interacting with the charity’s customers.

“There’s such a real struggle to get mental health support available right now. It’s all piling up – they can’t pay their food, bills, pet bills right now. It’s the perfect storm.”

The organizers of ARTS Senior Animal Rescue say they’ve also seen an increase in harassment recently, twofold: from people who have been unsuccessfully adopted and the growing number of people having to give up their older pets.

“We just can’t accommodate everyone, and every week we are figuring out who is most urgent, who we have room for, who we can’t – and unfortunately we have to make decisions about who we can and can’t help,” says Blair Douglas, the ARTS coordinator in Calgary.

“If we can’t help someone because we don’t have the space, we’ve been told we killed someone’s pet because they had to put their pet to sleep, which of course is super heartbreaking. We spend a lot of time looking for houses.”

Douglas says it’s been tough for everyone.

“Unfortunately, that leads to some people getting quite frustrated – somewhat understandable. But we are all volunteers doing our best.”

Both Parachutes for Pets and ARTS say that even with the recent surge in negativity, the majority of customers are not causing any problems.

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According to the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations (CCVO), this isn’t just something for animal charities, but it covers a large part of the industry.

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“We’re hearing from nonprofits that the needs and complexity of the people they serve are growing,” said Karen Ball, CCVO president and CEO.

“Everyone is feeling stress and pressure, mental health issues are on the rise, there are more Calgarians living in poverty, and all of these things together can create tension when someone seeks help.”

Ball mirrors many Alberta nonprofits that are also experiencing a decline in cash and donations, along with fewer volunteers and staff.

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“In Alberta… we’ve seen many programs and services that… have provided support to small to medium-sized businesses to help our economy recover,” Ball said.

“And we at CCVO are in talks with the Alberta government about how we are restoring our community and what it could mean to make the same kind of investments in our social infrastructure and our non-profit organizations to help rehabilitate the community as well. for these two things are interdependent.”

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The CCVO has created a blueprint to aid in that community recovery, calling for 3.5 percent of the province’s Alberta Recovery Plan to be invested in a community recovery fund “focused on supporting mental health, diversity, equity, inclusion, youth engagement and digital transformation.”

Both Parachutes for Pets and ARTS know that many Calgarians are currently struggling and understand that this is a major reason why donations are not what they were in the past.

Both organizations are looking for more volunteers and any other support Calgarians can give.

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