When it comes to providing the best animal care possible, it truly takes a village says Andrea Barker, Manager of Animal Care at the Oakville & Milton Humane Society (OMHS). Since 1986, she has dedicated her work to caring for animals, starting as an Animal Control Officer at OMHS, becoming the Shelter Animal Health Technician two years later before managing the Animal Care department.

DSC00440 3 722x1024 - IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO CARE FOR VULNERABLE ANIMALS – ANDREA BARKER “As the name implies, we care for the animals from the moment they arrive to the moment they leave. Animal Care strives to make the animals comfortable, anticipate their needs and ensure they live in a clean environment. And we also greatly rely on our community for support,” explains Andrea.

Born in Oakville, Ontario, she dove into the world of animal health by enrolling in St. Clair College in Windsor’s Animal Health Technician program. Today she heads a staff of nine who are integral to the functioning of the shelter. This includes three Registered Veterinary Technicians (RVT), a Kennel Supervisor and five Animal Care Attendants (ACA).

The shelters RVTs act as the “hands-on nurses” to all of the animals and liaison with OMHS veterinary partners and wildlife rehabilitators.

Andrea with vet 2 1 1024x796 - IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO CARE FOR VULNERABLE ANIMALS – ANDREA BARKER

Andrea Barker (left) with Dr. Frances Walker

When it comes to providing the best animal care possible, it truly takes a village says Andrea Barker, Manager of Animal Care at the Oakville & Milton Humane Society (OMHS). Since 1986, she has dedicated her work to caring for animals, starting as an Animal Control Officer at OMHS, becoming the Shelter Animal Health Technician two years later before managing the Animal Care department.

“As the name implies, we care for the animals from the moment they arrive to the moment they leave. Animal Care strives to make the animals comfortable, anticipate their needs and ensure they live in a clean environment. And we also greatly rely on our community for support,” explains Andrea.

Born in Oakville, Ontario, she dove into the world of animal health by enrolling in St. Clair College in Windsor’s Animal Health Technician program. Today she heads a staff of nine who are integral to the functioning of the shelter. This includes three Registered Veterinary Technicians (RVT), a Kennel Supervisor and five Animal Care Attendants (ACA).

The shelters RVTs act as the “hands-on nurses” to all of the animals and liaison with OMHS veterinary partners and wildlife rehabilitators.

“They also connect with Animal Protective Services to share medical and behavioural expertise, communicate the medical information for Adoptions and Lost and Found staff, and work with foster volunteers. They also receive and triage the multitude of wild creatures that come into OMHS.”

In addition, a major focus of her work is building relationships with community partners to ensure OMHS sets the highest standard of animal care.

“We value our community partners as they strengthen our position in the community and add value to everything we do. OMHS couldn’t do the important work we do without support from the Veterinarians, rescue groups and retailers in the area,” explains Andrea.

Providing great animal care also means taking time to learn their distinct personalities, explains Andrea. OMHS knows the importance of making a good match when adopting animals to homes. By understanding the unique personalities of the animals in our care, we can make a good match and both the animals and adopters needs are met.

Andrea and her team count on the many volunteers who donate their time to keep the animals healthy and safe. “Volunteer wildlife drivers and foster parents were deemed essential at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are thankful for each and every one of them. As our services ramp up again, our dog walkers are returning, and soon our cat socializers and animal care volunteers will hopefully follow.”

In addition to the impact on volunteers, COVID-19 also forced OMHS to move most of the animals to foster care so the shelter would have adequate space for new animals and to ensure their continued care in the event staff became ill.

“When OMHS reached out to the community for help the response was overwhelming with offers for foster care and the animals moved out to homes. I moved to working remotely as did many office staff. I’m proud of the animal care department who maintained the responsibility of caring for the animals still in the shelter, or arriving each day. I am so grateful for this team that always comes through for the animals,” adds Andrea.

The Animal Care department relies heavily on the assistance of veterinarians and clinics.

“Every animal we have needs to see a veterinarian before finding a new home. They could be ill or injured, require routine surgery or just a check-up to ensure they are in good health. So many of the clinics in town offer their assistance and expertise and support. We truly could not help the animals without them,” notes Andrea.

“In addition to the clinics that help, we have a team of amazing veterinarians that volunteer their time at the shelter to examine, vaccinate and consult on individual cases. This includes Dr. Walker, Dr. Baird, Dr. Miu and Dr. Waters who regularly provide their expertise to myself, the RVTs and the animals at OMHS.  I have had the pleasure of working with Dr. Walker at OMHS for over 30 years. Her dedication to veterinary medicine and shelter medicine in particular is a passion I find inspiring to this day.”

For Andrea, the animal care community she has helped build at OMHS is one of the most gratifying aspects of her work.

“One of the things I value most about my job is the incredible network of people I have met and worked with over the years. Our community is full of great people. My connections to veterinary staff, rescue group volunteers, OMHS volunteers, staff – past and present inspires me.”

She concedes that the work in Animal Care can take an emotional toll, which she tries to balance by taking walks in the woods with her dogs and reading books.

“People often say they don’t think they could do what those in animal care do,” says Andrea. “That may be true, but for most of the staff it is a passion and rewarding. They know the connection between people and animals and the value of the human-animal bond. So they see past the short term. For many it is exactly where they want to be to make a difference.”

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