Arizona native and long-time animal lover, Aimee Gilbreath, had practically every pet possible growing up (horses, goat, dog, cat, rabbit, snake, rat). “When I moved to Los Angeles it was the first time I didn’t have a pet in my household and I missed those interactions.”
To fill the void, Aimee looked for pet related volunteer opportunities which fatefully led her into the world of animal welfare, shelters, and rescue groups. While volunteering she fell in love with the stocky, blocky headed dogs most people call pit bulls, adopted one, and got inspired to help on a larger scale.
A seasoned leader in both non-profit and private-sector organizations with extensive experience in a range of industries spanning biotech, consumer goods and philanthropy, Aimee has a proven track record of driving organizations to achieve growth and success.
Prior to her role at PetSmart Charities, Aimee served as the executive director of the Found Animals Foundation, Inc., a non-profit supporting pet owners and animal welfare organizations with a mission dedicated to saving pets and enriching lives, Aimee spearheaded activities for the foundation’s 1,000+ B2B clients and 5 million B2C customers nationwide.
Aimee holds an MBA from Stanford University and a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Arizona.
with Aimee Gilbreath
Why do you think pets are important in the lives of people?
In our increasingly stressful and polarized world, pets are a source of unconditional love and even unity. Pets provide companionship, support, and motivation for people across the entire spectrum of age, income, geography, and ideology. We now have more and more data that demonstrates how wonderful pets are for our mental and physical health. And regardless of how many differences you may have with another human, if you both love a pet you’ll be showing photos on your phone and feeling like you have something in common in no time. Loving pets makes us better people and has the power to bring us together.
How has your pet (or a previous pet) changed your life?
My dearly departed dog Rufus is the reason I am in animal welfare. He was a 65lb tuxedo pitbull and I adopted him in 2006. He was the sweetest pup – good with dogs, helped foster kittens, loved people – and yet people would cross the street to avoid us when we were walking. Having him and seeing what a wonderful pet he was, and then knowing that so many dogs just like him were dying in shelters, motivated me to get involved in the industry. He changed the minds of so many of my friends and family about pitbulls and inspired me to take a leap into animal welfare as a profession.
What makes you most excited about working with PetSmart Charities?
Because of the unique power of the human animal bond, we have the ability to help pets and the people who love them through the work we do at Charities. Of course we celebrate when a pet gets placed in a home through our adoption program or one of our partner organizations. And it is just as satisfying to help a pet stay in the home they already have by making veterinary care more affordable and accessible, or making sure pet food is available in food banks, or ensuring that families can flee a disaster with their beloved pets. 2/3 of US households have a pet and over 90% of them are considered family. I am excited that the work we do supports pets as members of the family.
What’s one stigma about pet parenting you wish would end?
Historically in animal welfare there was a sentiment that if you “couldn’t afford” to “properly” care for a pet you should not have one. We now recognize that people in all income brackets love their pets. In fact, we now know that sometimes people who are most at risk (i.e. people experiencing homelessness, homebound seniors, etc.) benefit the most from the love and companionship offered by pets. I am glad to see our industry moving past judgement of low income pet owners and into creating programs that support all pets and families.