Even though it might feel that the world has come to a standstill, some activities never cease—and our animal community is no exception. Wildlife creatures always need rescue and rehabilitation, pets still need vet care, and kittens and puppies continue to be born. Local nonprofits have continued to nurture our animals throughout this crisis, and even though programs and schedules may have changed, many of them have found creative ways to maintain health care, encourage pet adoptions, and run emotional support programs that connect people with the unconditional love of an animal.
We all have an innate need for companionship, perhaps now more than ever as social distancing has become the norm. Studies have shown that interacting with animals can decrease levels of cortisol—the stress hormone—and can lower blood pressure. Other studies have found that animals reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost our moods. With COVID-19 hitting our community in February of this year, PAWS of Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap had to re-evaluate its activities as their foster homes filled quickly during a peak season. After some deliberation, PAWS—which focuses on the bond between the pets and their people through a variety of programs—moved to virtual adoptions. They were able to connect pets to people through online applications, and successfully found creative ways to hand off pets safely and efficiently. In April and May 2020, PAWS experience record-setting adoption months.
Several other local nonprofits also focus on emotional support and the incredible bond between humans and animals. The Native Horsemanship Youth Program, a nonprofit focused on preserving the natural and traditional Native American methods of interacting with horses, has been a tremendous support to youth in our community. They teach horsemanship to children, regardless of their ability to pay, and offer classes to families who may face disabilities. One participant explained how her daughter Sarah was born with a rare genetic disorder, and has had to work hard to do the everyday things most children learn with ease. She brought Sarah to the Native Horsemanship Youth Program with the hope that she would build strength in her body and learn to tolerate new and different environments. According to her mother, Sarah is at ease with the horses unlike anywhere else—she is relaxed, happier, and more confident. Several years into the program her mother said, “A year or so after [Sarah] started riding with the [Native Horsemanship Youth Program], she had a writing assignment for her second grade class: ‘what am I good at.’ Without missing a beat [she] started talking about how good she was at riding horses. Her school aide wrote down [Sarah’s] words for her essay and she was so proud to read her essay to her class. For a child who is behind in every developmental milestone to be able to brag about how good she is riding her horses was one of the best gifts this program has given us. In so many ways, big and small, Native Horsemanship Youth Program has enriched our lives and we are so very thankful.”
Wildlife animals also sometimes need help thriving in a rapidly evolving environment. West Sound Wildlife Shelter is an organization that has continued its activities of providing injured, orphaned, and sick wildlife a second chance at life. While there has been a change in how they conduct their services by limiting patient intake, there has been no shortage of animal rescues. “We have had more wildlife intakes this year than last year—keeping us much busier than usual,” said Lisa Horn, Executive Director of the shelter. They have also found creative ways to continue supporting wildlife in our community through additional outreach and education activities. “Whether through an online format or our nature walks, we are excited to offer the community an opportunity to learn about our local wildlife and meet our education ambassadors. Thanks to the continued support of the community, we are able to continue our work of saving wild lives and providing the public with unique wildlife education programs,” explained Lisa.
Nurturing our animals—whether pets, horses, or wildlife—is key to maintaining a healthy balance in life, and we are thankful for our nonprofits that support them.
To learn more about #BainbridgeTogether, click here.
Click on the links below to read about our nonprofits highlighted every week:
Bainbridge Community Foundation supports our local nonprofits by providing analyses of community needs, awarding grants to meet those needs, connecting donors to nonprofits, and encouraging collaboration. BCF also awards grants through its Community Response Fund to support our nonprofits during a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic. You can learn more by signing up for Bainbridge Community Foundation’s newsletter by emailing [email protected], visiting our website at www.BainbridgeCF.org, or following us on social media (Facebook, Instagram, or #BainbridgeTogether).
To learn more about our local nonprofits that nurture our animals, click on the links below. If you would like to donate, you can give directly on their website or go through the One Call for All directory.
Bainbridge Prepares: Bainbridge Prepares is dedicated to supporting our community through communication and awareness, because when everyone is connected and informed, the island thrives. A collaborative blend of individuals, organizations, and local government, Bainbridge Prepares is actively making the island community more resilient through mutual aid among residents.
Horse Harbor Foundation, Inc.: Horse Harbor Foundation has provided lifelong sanctuary for horses that have been abandoned, neglected, abused, or facing premature euthanasia and slaughter since 1994. The foundation provides shelter and care for up to 30 horses at any one time, all of which are provided the finest possible care to ensure that they live out the rest of their lives in a comfortable and loving environment.
Kitsap Humane Society: Kitsap Humane Society is committed to providing positive life changing solutions to people and animals in need. They do so by accepting, sheltering and rehabilitating companion animals in need; providing humane rescue, protection, prevention, adoption and education services; implementing progressive life-saving and life-affirming programs; and collaborating and partnering with our region and supporters to build a model humane community.
Native Horsemanship Youth Program: The Native Horsemanship Youth Program is a non-profit community organization, operating on the Port Madison Indian Reservation. Their mission is to preserve and teach traditional (Comanche/Numunu) horsemanship to interested youth and families on our reservation and surrounding community, regardless of their ability to pay and to offer classes to youth and families with disabilities. They have many participants on the autism spectrum.
PAWS of Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap: PAWS of Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap advocates, educates, and provides direct services to nurture the bond of companionship between pets and their people, for the health and well-being of both. Programs include providing access to affordable spay/neuter surgeries, health checks, and vaccinations for low-income populations.
West Sound Wildlife Shelter: West Sound Wildlife Shelter is a wildlife rehabilitation and education facility and serves as the primary rehabilitation center for Kitsap County, and other counties in the western Puget Sound region. They rehabilitate injured, sick and orphaned wildlife, giving them a second chance at life. In addition to rehabilitation efforts, WSWS works with the greater western Puget Sound community on habitat and species conservation and education. They have partnerships with several local community groups and work with the cities of Bainbridge Island, Gig Harbor, Kingston, Port Gamble, and Poulsbo, to promote conservation, education, and awareness.
 The Power of Pets: Health Benefits of Human-Animal Interactions, National Institutes of Health News in Health. February 2018 <https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2018/02/power-pets>
 Name has been changed