The Kingston Humane Society (KHS) is running Big Paws Across Canada virtually this spring. The annual dog-walking event was originally scheduled to run until the end of April, however, KHS has extended Big Paws to reflect Ontario’s current stay-at-home order.
Community members, as well as those living outside of Kingston, are invited to register as individuals or on a team for $25, track the number of kilometres walked (with or without your pet) for the event and collect pledges in support of KHS and local animal welfare. The goal is to collectively walk 6,818 kilometers across Canada for a second time, on a return trip from last year.
Funds raised this year will improve the quality of life for homeless, abused, and injured animals through veterinary care including life-saving surgeries, provision of medication, and safe haven in Kingston and area. KHS has set a goal of $15,000 and has raised about $11,000 so far. Individual donations are also welcome.
Big Paws has long been the Kingston Humane Society’s largest in-person fundraising event, and previously drew hundreds of participants to walk in Lake Ontario Park. Big Paws ran as a virtual event for the first time in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and raised over $26,000. The change allowed for a wider range of KHS supporters to participate, and participants collectively walked the equivalent of a trip from British Columbia to Newfoundland.
Now called Big Paws Across Canada, this spring’s event is challenging participants to walk enough kilometres to span a return trip from the East Coast back to the West Coast of Canada. Participants have currently made it as far as Saskatchewan.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created hardship for the local Humane Society, taking away two of its biggest annual fundraising events.
“[The pandemic] has taken the personal connection out of fundraising,” said Gord Hunter, Executive Director of the Kingston Humane Society. “It’s really important for us to meet the people who support us through our events— these were opportunities for us to get out and meet each other and connect through our pets. We all love our pets, and we love hearing about people’s stories adopting and fostering from us.”
“What really has been amazing is the number of people who have been willing to donate and help us out despite the fact that they can’t come in. That, to me, is a true measure of our community and how generous [people] are,” he added
The recent story of Crane, a husky found in a feral state and rescued from Central Frontenac along with six other abandoned dogs, serves as an example of the work KHS does. Hunter says his staff did an amazing job caring for these dogs, including Crane, who was the most difficult to train of all six.
Although Crane was placed with a foster-to-own family, he escaped and evaded multiple attempts to help him back to the shelter, despite the fact returning to the wilderness again could have been fatal for him. After 17 days of appeals to the community and diligent search efforts, Crane was re-rescued by KHS, which relies heavily on fundraising events like Big Paws to provide this standard of care.
On Sunday, May 16, 2021, Crane was moved to a special Husky rescue organization and is expected to thrive in this environment. However, KHS and the specific staff member who fostered Crane offered him a new life.
“He’s a different dog now – his progress was incredible,” said Hunter. “We’re really happy for him.”
Hunter maintains that the KHS team has been doing a fantastic job with the animals during unprecedented times.
“It’s been the most challenging 14 months for KHS and we had to create a whole new model for doing business. We had to split our teams up into two different cohorts to be COVID-safe. They are superstars – every single one of them.”
Looking forward, KHS will additionally be hosting its first ever golf tournament fundraiser at Loyalist on Saturday, Jun. 5, 2021. Registration for 84 tee times was open early to long-time KHS supporters and the event sold out before it went public.
“With the success we’ve had, I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t do a larger event next year,” said Hunter.
Dogs currently up for adoption at KHS will be allowed on the golf course, and some participants might just head home with a new family member.
As the golf tournament is now full, the best way to support KHS through the spring is by participating in Big Paws, or by leaving a donation in your name at https://kingstonhumanesociety.ca/big-paws-event.
About the Kingston Humane Society: The KHS is committed to advocating for and improving the lives of animals within our community. Founded in 1884, the KHS provides shelter and care for homeless animals in Kingston and surrounding communities. They promote responsible pet ownership and compassion, and respect for all animals. In addition, they work in and with our community to provide leadership in the humane treatment of all animals, to address the causes of animal suffering, to encourage people to take responsibility for their animal companions and to provide care for animals who are neglected, abused, exploited, stray or homeless.