Dr. Shawn Llewellyn isn’t taking all the credit for a recent award, nor what led up to it.
Since 2012, Llewellyn, backed by a dozen staff members at Scottsdale Veterinary Hospital, has held day-long pet clinics for marginalized people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and West End.
He and the volunteers make at least one visit each year to help pet owners at RainCity Housing and Support Society, Portland Hotel Society and Dr. Peter Centre.
“Without everyone here supporting me, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do,” he says.
Overseeing the clinics is Paws for Hope Animal Foundation, a Vancouver-based non-profit organization established in 2011 to advocate for animal rights and pet ownership in B.C.
Llewellyn is the board president of the foundation, which was founded by Burnaby social services advocate Kathy Powelson.
At each clinic, they see about 30 animals, usually a mix of dogs and cats – plus “the occasional rabbit or rat.”
Animals are a big part of life in the Downtown Eastside, Llewellyn says, noting new housing units for marginalized people downtown now allow pets.
“They’ve come to recognize that human-animal bonds are key. A lot of times it’s the only stable companion they have in life. We hear many stories of how a pet saved their life or it helped them get off of drug addiction or through mental health/suicide issues. We hear that time and time again.”
Llewellyn, 34, graduated from the Atlantic Veterinary College at the University of Prince Edward Island in 2008 and began working at Scottsdale Veterinary Hospital later that year.
For his work with the low-income and homeless community, Llewellyn has been awarded with the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s (CVMA) Humane Award.
“Dr. Llewellyn is an individual who is making a significant impact on the health and welfare of companion animals, especially among high-risk, low-income, transient and homeless populations,” said Dr. Ko Arman, director, CVMA – Society of B.C. Veterinarians Chapter board of directors. “Shawn plays a vital role in improving and ensuring the health of these animals and, by extension, the health and welfare of these owners.”
Llewellyn is also involved in referrals for homeless pets to his Surrey animal hospital and is planning more free pet clinics in Vancouver in the near future.
“We’re now branching into some youth services as well… we’ll expand from four to about six clinics.”
He says pets are critical for the well-being of people who are homeless or at high risk.
“Pets are a key factor in their ability to cope and get through some of those hardships. The pets of these people are more often than not cared for. There will be times when the person will go without food to feed their pet.”