Connections & Companionship: The Health of BC Youth with Pets

SUNDAY, APRIL 9, 1:00-1:45PM

Kathy Powelson, Executive Director, Paws for Hope Animal Foundation
Annie Smith, Executive Director, McCreary Centre Society

This report is the first to look at the role that pets play in the lives of British Columbia's young people. It uses data from the 2013 Adolescent Health Survey (n = 30,000) and the 2014 Homeless and Street-Involved Youth Survey (n= 681). It provides an important first step in understanding the impact pets have on youth and the barriers and challenges pet guardianship can create for marginalized youth. Through this report, we can begin to obtain the knowledge necessary to develop informed policy and programs that can provide holistic and practical solutions and that can serve both the interests of individual young people and their pets.

Three Key Learnings:
1. Homeless youth with a pet were more likely to attend school
2. Socially-isolated youth were less likely to have a pet
3. Having a pet appeared to be linked to an increase in social connections

Kathy Powelson is the founder of Paws for Hope Animal Foundation and has spent the majority of her career working to support at-risk youth through frontline work, program funding and community capacity-building. Through this work, she recognized the importance of working with individual organizations and communities to build and support capacity to address the unique needs of each community and their young people. As she became involved in animal welfare issues in BC, she realized that this same approach was needed to address the issues faced by animal welfare and rescue organizations in order to enhance the overall welfare of animals.

Annie Smith is the Executive Director of the McCreary Centre Society, a non-profit organization committed to improving the health of BC youth through community-based research, education and youth participation projects. Annie is the lead author of the report "Connections and Companionship: The Health of BC Youth with Pets”. She has also co-authored two reports on the health of homeless youth, which have led to the creation of more pet-friendly spaces at local service organizations for homeless youth.