How Shelters and Rescues Can Collaborate to Improve Animal Welfare


Stefanie Martin BSc, Supervisor of Stakeholder Relations, Edmonton Humane Society
Deanna Thompson, Executive Director, Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society (AARCS)

Improving animal welfare is an endeavor of many independent organizations across the country. In order to most effectively aid animals in need, it is vital to develop and maintain strong working relationships between humane societies and SPCAs, rescue groups and municipal shelters.

For independent groups that decide to collaborate on animal-related initiatives, it is important to find a common goal to work towards, recognizing that groups may have different roles and responsibilities within the community. Exploring potential partnerships by identifying reputable groups, setting up clear expectations of each group and creating a written agreement are all necessary steps in establishing a successful collaboration. Formalized partnerships can provide many benefits to both organizations. Recognizing potential risks of a partnership can allow for proper planning and communication to mitigate problems.


  1. Finding a common goal to work towards to establish your relationship.
  2. Setting the expectations of each partner and putting them in writing.
  3. The benefits of a partnership and how to identify and mitigate potential risks.


Stefanie Martin has a vast understanding of animal sheltering operations, having been with the Edmonton Humane Society (EHS) for eight years in a variety of roles. As Supervisor of Stakeholder Relations, she has overseen further development and growth of EHS’ volunteer program, foster program and rescue relations. A graduate from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Science in Animal Health, Stefanie has a passion for the complexities of animal welfare. Through innovation and collaboration, Stefanie believes nurturing relationships between organizations can help to advance animal welfare.

Deanna Thompson is the Executive Director of Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society (AARCS). A graduate from Mount Royal College, Deanna went on to complete her Bachelor of Management Degree in 2009 at University of Lethbridge. Since 2010, Deanna has lead of one of Alberta’s fastest-growing animal welfare agencies in Alberta. As an advocate for animal welfare, she has dedicated her life to improving animal welfare through collaboration, cooperation and continuous learning. 

Under Deanna’s leadership, AARCS opened a 3,000 square foot quarantine shelter in Calgary in 2012, which resulted in dramatic growth for the organization. In 2017, the organization expanded operations to a 13,000 square foot facility, including a 3,000 square foot in-house veterinary hospital that features x-ray, diagnostics, dental and two operating suites. The organization current employs 17 staff members, including veterinary staff, behaviour staff and more than 1,400 volunteers and foster homes.

Focusing their efforts on rural areas of Alberta with limited or no animal services, AARCS rescues and adopts out approximately 2,500 cats and dogs each year, with the majority of their animals being cared for through their vast network of foster homes. With a vision of a Compassionate World for All Animals, AARCS focuses much of their work on improving animal welfare through Spay/Neuter & Disease Prevention Programs, Trap-Neuter-Return, Pet Assistance Programs, Emergency Foster Care and Humane Education.