Founded by Valerie Ingram and Alistair Schroff in 2008, Lakes Animal Friendship Society (LAFS) is based in Burns Lake, British Columbia in Canada. The group is run by the husband and wife team and recently became a non-profit charity.
Valerie and Alistair also authored a children’s book called Nobody’s Cats, which is how I learned about the rescue group. Fellow blogger Cori of Three Irish Cats wrote about the children’s book, and I promptly ordered it, finding it to be a great educational book that teaches children about trap-neuter-return (TNR) and the importance of caring for community cats.
About Lakes Animal Friendship Society
LAFS focuses on educating about animal care and compassion, and they work to make sustainable improvements in animal welfare in their community. The group focuses on spaying and neutering animals from lower-income families, managing community cat colonies, and constructing/refurbishing insulated dog houses for cats and dogs in need. They also make sure the local food bank has a steady supply of dog and cat food available.
“We work hard to involve and empower our community, reaching pre-K students right on up to senior citizens! We have always had the goal to be part of a proactive community of care and compassion. We feel that with persistence and patience it can be done!”
A Key Factor of Success is Education
According to Valerie, who spent 12 years teaching in her hometown of Burns Lake, she says that children have an intrinsic love for animals, which needs to be nurtured. “For the past eight years, I have brought Dusty, our adopted dog into the 35 classrooms in our community and surrounding areas, and he has taught children from preschool to grade 10, helping them understand what it is to be caring, compassionate and responsible guardians.”
LAFS has had so much success that the local students even got involved with a TNR project that involved spaying and neutering 400 community cats. The students also contributed artwork and helped write the ending of Valerie and Alistair’s first children’s book called Nobody’s Cats.
The children’s book Nobody’s Cats is based on the true story of two local students who contacted LAFS about a community cat colony. The students and their school raised funds, helped to feed the cats, and ultimately got the TNR project started.
Thousands of copies of the book are in the hands of students, regional schools, libraries and animal welfare and humane education groups across North America and beyond.
Valerie says, “Not only are the students ambassadors for animal welfare within their community, but they can also see the ripple of compassion spreading.”
“This idea of empowering our kids and helping the health and happiness of our community and their animals continued through a large scale insulated dog and community cat house project,” notes Valerie.
A high school class with their teacher, Dirk Hofer, designed an economical and easy-to-make shelter that only uses one sheet of plywood and a few other materials. They are also easy to transport in flat packs. (If interested, you can download the design at the LAFS website.)
Now, classrooms and families build these houses for their furry family members. To date, they have built or refurbished nearly 300 houses for dogs and cats in need. The project further inspired an entire school (Babine Elementary School) to make dog and cat blankets from old, donated jeans.
Out of the Cold
For their second children’s book, Out of the Cold, Valerie and Alistair incorporated the dog house project into it. While promoting the goal of all pets living indoors, the book recognizes that other options such as all-weather shelters are needed as well.
Valerie says, “We have given copies of this book to every family and child in our community of Burns Lake and distributed far beyond our community. We want to help other children and communities feel empowered and take action to reduce the suffering, and change attitudes and behaviors. We want to give everyone hope that change is possible. We say that our books are about inspiration, education and celebration. We celebrate the work of our local community, educate about the issues and hope to inspire others to take action and be part of the solution.”
A Conversation with Valerie
Does Lakes Animal Friendship Society have a mission statement?
We don’t have a formal mission statement. However, we operate all our programs with the principle that “healthy, happy animals are part of healthy, happy families and communities”. Many social issues are intertwined, and the needs of all components of the community must be considered. Animal welfare efforts contribute to moving the whole community forward.
Do you work with other rescue groups?
We do work with other local groups to help cats and dogs find homes. This includes feral cats, which we work to find “barn cat” type homes where their unique needs will be met and they can stay healthy and happy. Most feral cats return to their colony as part of the TNR projects.
What has been one of the most challenging aspects of what you do?
The most challenging aspect we have faced are the people who are “not dog or cat lovers” and do not “get” why we pour our hearts, souls and resources into what we do. Especially the efforts made for the community cats, who are seen as on the fringe of any animal welfare efforts. We are firm in our conviction that healthy, happy animals are an important part of happy, healthy families and communities.
Our book Nobody’s Cats is specifically about our efforts for the community cats. How some local children became aware of some suffering cats, learned of the special challenges facing community cats and went on a journey of educating their teachers, classmates and community. It’s about the change that is possible in attitude and behavior toward animals and empowering an entire community to care for these “nobody’s cats” to be seen as “our community’s cats”!
What’s a fun fact you can share with us?
Alistair and I are high school sweethearts, going on to 24 years of marriage. We are a team, and only a fraction of the LAFS projects and goals would be met by one without the other. We share the dream of building a community of care – one animal, one student, one family at a time!
I am giving away to two lucky readers a copy of one of Valerie and Alistair’s books. One winner will receive Nobody’s Cats and another winner will receive a copy of Out of the Cold. These books are educational and great for young readers to learn about compassion and caring for animals.
If you’d like to purchase one of the books instead of entering the giveaway, all proceeds support their education and spay/neuter programs, including TNR programs for community cats. Visit lakesanimalfriendship.ca for more information on purchasing copies. Discounts are available for animal welfare organizations.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
The giveaway is open to U.S. residents, 18+ years of age, except where prohibited by law. If you live outside of the U.S. and would like to enter, and should you win, you can choose to send your item to a friend or rescue/shelter in the United States. Two winners will be selected randomly by Rafflecopter and contacted via email. The winners will each have 48 hours to claim their prize. Failure to do so will result in forfeiture of the prize, and a new winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter. The giveaway closes on Monday, February 13, 2017 at noon Pacific.
A big thank you to Valerie for sharing with us about Lakes Animal Friendship Society. The work that Valerie and Alistair are doing in the community and with schools is so inspiring! Be sure to follow LAFS on Facebook to keep up with their community projects.
You may not see an ear tip in some of these pictures, as some were taken before they were able to TNR certain cats.