Kate’s career trajectory began with an innate passion for animal welfare and advocacy. After a close-call incident with her childhood pet, Kate’s work in creating a better life for pets began taking shape.
“When I was eight years old, my dog, Molly, ran away. We searched for weeks and finally found her at the local pound, just a few days from being euthanized. It shocked me. I remember wondering why we were punishing animals when it wasn’t their fault they were in that situation.”
As Director of Community Grants & Initiatives, Kate leads the team managing a grant portfolio across the United States and Canada dedicated to ensuring that families can provide their pets what they need to stay happy, healthy, and together, especially during times of crisis. Their current focal issues include accessible veterinary care, pet food security, and disaster relief.
“I went to college and then graduate school with animal welfare and the human-animal bond in mind – this is always exactly what I wanted to do. When I was studying late and getting accusing looks from my dog, I told her I was getting a degree that would allow me to bring her to work.”
Before joining PetSmart Charities, Kate spent over a decade leading the Community Animal Program at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (ifaw). During her time there, she worked with communities across the globe to ensure better access to veterinary care as part of public health and community safety programs. She also oversaw ifaw’s disaster response program, working with global leaders in emergency response to provide critical support to agencies in times of disaster.
Prior to focusing on companion animals, Kate campaigned to protect wildlife from human threats and international trade, apprenticed at a national assistance dog training organization and researched and authored corporate social responsibility and business leadership trends while working at a social science research institute in Berlin, Germany.
Why is the human-animal bond important?
Animals are little amplifiers of the best parts of life. When I watch my dog leap across a meadow with her tongue out and her tail high or snuggle up in the middle of the afternoon, I experience a little bit of her joy and comfort, regardless of what else is happening for me. They help us build connections with others who share in their joy, and they make our communities happier places to live.
What makes you most proud of working at PetSmart Charities?
I love working for an organization whose unabashed mission is to make pets and people's lives better together! I am incredibly proud that we embrace the idea that all people who make pets part of their family deserve to be able to care for them, no matter what their circumstances. We're working hard to get them the help they need to keep their families together. I'm also humbled by the talent, energy, strategic thinking, and passion our team brings. It keeps me on my toes, using all my skills all the time. I love it!
What is a mission moment you will never forget?
After Hurricane Ida, we received a heartfelt letter from one of the organizations we supported in the impact area in Louisiana. Their facility was devastated, many of their staff and volunteers had lost homes, yet they kept coming to work to care for the animals. The letter told us how much our grant meant for their staff because it not only let them do their work, but it let them know that they weren't alone and there were others out there supporting their effort. Caring for animals in distress is such hard work, and our partners on the front lines will give them everything they've got. I'm proud that we can provide our partners with funds and a genuine partnership in the face of all they do every day.
What excites you about the future of animal welfare?
I see so much opportunity for us to make animal welfare not something separate, taking resources away from helping people, but something that we do together, for everyone. I see animal welfare as something that brings us together, makes people healthier and happier, and makes communities stronger in all the ways that matter. We're starting to bring more human service organizations to the table, and I'm excited to see where it goes.
What's one stigma about pet parenting you wish would end?
I wish people didn't think you have to have a puppy or a kitten to build a strong bond with your pet. Older animals can have such wisdom and grace. It makes me cry when I see older animals in shelters because they have so much to give and just need a comfortable place to be themselves.
Any unique stories about your pets?
Ivy was born in remote northern Canada as a free-roaming dog in a small community. When we first brought her home, my kids were learning to sing 'America the Beautiful’, but Ivy always looked pained and asked to go outside. We thought maybe she'd prefer 'O Canada' instead, and when we tried it, she wagged her tail and howled along. So, of course, now we sing it for her all the time, complete with special lyrics we made up just for her.