23 June 2014

Healthy, Happy, Pet Relationships - Pacific Innovation Showcase Spotlight

Terri Perrin
InfoStream Staff Writer

Infostream staff writer Terri Perrin interviewed Sarah Bull, Supervisor of Bylaws, Licensing and Animal Services and Andrea McDonald, Manager of Bylaws, Licensing and Animal Services from the City of Coquitlam, BC. The duo are spearheading an innovative program called ‘Happy, Healthy Pet Relationships.’ They were eager to discuss how they are inspiring companion animal industry innovators to collaborate in an effort to enhance relationships between pets and their families.

Infostream (IS): It was obvious at your presentation that you are both passionate about this program in particular and pets in general. Can you give us some insight into your own personal Pet Experiences and what fuels your passion for this collaborative effort?

Sarah Bull (SB): I had originally wanted to be a veterinarian and I was taking post secondary education to work towards that goal. I had also gained work experience in animal hospitals, a pet store and at a groomer. When the City of Coquitlam started their own animal shelter in 2002, I was hired as one of three shelter attendants. I worked in the shelter for two and a half years and then I had an opportunity to move into bylaw and animal enforcement. I became an officer and then eventually moved into a supervisory role. It was a fork in the road that I had never envisioned but once I started to do the job I found it very rewarding and decided to make it my career. I simply took a detour that landed me where I feel I needed to be. As for my personal Pet Experiences, I currently have a Miniature Pinscher and four cats.

Andrea McDoanld (AM):  I had a different path. I worked in recreation and parks for 20 years and was managing an aquatic facility. The City of Coquitlam approached me when the position of Manager of Bylaws, Licensing and Animal Services came up in 2004. I must say my business experience relating to Bylaw was limited. I had received a parking ticket and I owned a cat. That’s all!  But it is not unusual for me to tackle something completely new to me. For example, my university degree is in teaching but I perused other avenues. Whether I am at an aquatic centre or an animal shelter, managing a facility and crew has a lot of similarities but different perspectives. Now I am here and I love it. I have two cats and a dog… but no more parking tickets!

IS: Healthy, Happy Pet Relationships is a collaboration of several urban animal industry sectors. How did it get started?

AM: The concept was originally discussed amongst a group of people at the Summit for Urban Animal Strategies in 2012. Afterwards, I met with a local veterinarian and a representative from Petland to brainstorm ideas of what the message might look like in Coquitlam. Our goal was to move away from the common ‘Responsible Pet Ownership’ label and try to come up with a concept that we could collectively agree on. Our intent was to create a public education program but to take out the perceived judgment of the word ‘responsible’ because it also implies ‘irresponsible’. We view ‘A Happy, Healthy Pet Relationship’ as a program where companion animal industry innovators collaborate to enhance and enrich the relationship between pets and their families.

SB: We developed the program in 2013 in the city of Coquitlam. We have also presented the program to the Lower Mainland Regional animal Control Managers Committee and had great feedback. Several municipalities want to run with it already. When we presented at the Pacific Regional Urban Animal Conference, representatives from several rescue groups liked the messaging and are now using it.

IS: What is the basic premise of the program?

AM: We worked together with several industry sectors and originally came up with five steps to a Happy, Healthy Pet Relationship:

· Safety and Identification
· Health and Wellness
· Food and Nutrition
· Exercise and Play and
· Manners and Training.

We developed the program and Sarah had been presenting to a variety of groups for a number of months. After the April 2014 Urban Animal Conference – with its focus on pet sourcing – we added a sixth step: Choosing a Pet.

IS: How did you come up with the criteria and were there any challenges creating it?

AM: The food and nutrition area was quite contentious because everyone has such different ideas. We focused on developing relationships with veterinarians and retailers for information.

IS: How is the program managed and funded?

SB: For now, it is funded by the City of Coquitlam. We have had further discussion about program expansion with the Lower Mainland Regional animal Control Managers Committee and we are starting to produce new materials so we will have to address further funding soon.

IS: How is it that you came to present this topic at the Pacific Region Summit?

AM: We had a meeting with Larry Evans from PetLynx in January and he said that he was looking for ideas for a few other presenters. Conversations at that lunch sparked his interest. The day of the Urban Animal Conference, however, I ended up getting called away so Sarah did the presentation for me.  We will co-present at Lake Louise in October.

IS: How was your Regional Urban Animal Conference experience?

SB: This was my fifth time at a Regional event. Being able to sit down and have such meaningful conversations about our industry is mind blowing. The October 2014 Summit will be my first time at the national event. I’m really looking forward to it.

AM: The Regional Urban Animal Conference was absolutely amazing. It is a different format than a typical conference. There is so much networking and interacting at a national level.  It was fabulous.

IS: What do you hope to achieve by being an Innovation Showcase presenter at the national Summit in October?

SB: The main reason I wanted to spend time on this was to draw on the energy from the Summit and get valuable feedback. As importantly, I want to get something down on paper. This can be the most difficult step. This program could be taken nationally to ensure that all pet owners visiting a veterinarian, pet store or rescue agency, for example, get consistent information. We need to be on the same page and have the same goals but we need collaboration. This is what we came up with at the Summit two years ago. I hope this will be a good starting point for some national messaging.

The 2014 Urban Animal Regional Conferences presented the second annual Innovation Showcases. Across the continent, 20 local Innovators were given the opportunity to share their stories and successes with Urban Animal subscribers. From those, eight were selected to present at the 2014 Summit for Urban Animal Strategies, October 22–25 in beautiful Lake Louise, Alberta.

No comments:

Post a Comment