Face-2-Face or Online: Community Engagement and Tough Conversations in Animal Welfare


Sage Pullen McIntosh, General Manager of Community Relations, Calgary Humane Society
Becky Taylor MA RVT, Instructor, AHT/VMR/VTA Programs, Olds College


Navigating the difficult conversations that come with working in Animal Welfare can be a pitfall for many organizations. Animal welfare professionals need to focus their energy on educating all types of people: lawmakers, donors, animal owners and the general public to further support best animal care practices. Often these conversations centre on topics that are controversial, political or policy-driven and can make it challenging for an organization to communicate effectively with its stakeholders.

The emotional connection that people have to animals and the emotional connection they have to their beliefs creates an emotional wall that may negatively affects a person's ability to converse, be open minded and to learn about important topics. Key messages need to be communicated in a way that the learner or audience feels comfortable listening, is keenly interested in what the speaker is saying and is compelled to action. In our mediated society, these messages need to be communicated face to face and through various online and social forums.

The good news is, there are skills that can be taught to help people become effective communicators and get their message across to all types of audiences. Through a 90-minute hands-on workshop, attendees will learn how to navigate difficult conversations both online and face to face and will focus their learnings on three key areas.


  1. What makes conversations about animal welfare difficult and how to become self-aware of personal triggers; learn the personal and societal triggers that make conversing about animal welfare so challenging.
  2. Identify communication strategies for negative social media and interpersonal dialogue.
  3. Practice communication skills with coaching and peer feedback. Conference delegates will leave the session with a deeper understanding of why these conversations are difficult, how they can manage themselves and the messages they are conveying online and develop skills to use when engaging in difficult conversations.


Sage Pullen McIntosh joined Calgary Humane Society in February 2015. Previously, Sage spent 16 years working in both radio and television news as a reporter, anchor and producer. Her most recent role was at CTV Calgary as a news reporter and Senior Producer for CTV Morning Live. Sage holds a diploma in Broadcasting from Mount Royal University and a Master's of Arts in Professional Communication through Royal Roads University. Sage's passion involves strategic and crisis communications and helping organizations create effective communication strategies both internally and externally.

Becky Taylor has been active in her career as a Registered Animal Health Technologist (AHT) in Alberta for more than 20 years. She graduated from Fairview College in 1993 and worked in a mixed animal practice for more than six years. In 1999, Becky joined the teaching team at Olds College in the AHT Program. Along with her teaching role, she is currently the coordinator of the following programs: Animal Health Technology (AHT), Veterinary Medical Receptionist (VMR) and Veterinary Technical Assistant (VTA). Becky holds a certificate in Veterinary Hospital Management and has completed extensive training in leadership and communication. Becky's passion for working with people has led to her devoting much of her professional development to learning and teaching communication skills in an applied manner.