Social Work in Animal Welfare: Strengthening Communities and the Human-Animal Bond

| March 8, 2024

In recent years, the understanding of the human-animal bond has grown significantly, shedding light on the deep emotional connections between people and their pets. This recognition has paved the way for the integration of social work into animal welfare organizations, where social workers play a vital role in addressing complex issues faced by pet parents and animals alike.  

Toronto Humane Society has embraced social work as an integral part of our community programs, exemplifying the transformative impact this approach can have on both individuals and their animal companions. The Urgent Care program, for instance, stands as a testament to our commitment to addressing the multifaceted needs of families and their pets during times of crisis. 

This program focuses on the welfare of the animals and extends its reach to families. Social workers are actively involved in helping families facing hardships such as homelessness, health issues, and domestic violence. Our team of social workers are equipped to tackle these complex issues, providing essential support and guidance to those in need. By addressing the root causes of these challenges, social workers contribute to creating long-lasting solutions that benefit both the human and animal members of a family. 

Social Work Appreciation Day

Recognizing the invaluable contribution of social workers to animal welfare, Toronto Humane Society celebrates Social Work Appreciation Week. This week is dedicated to honouring the individuals who employ a social-service lens to animal welfare programs, highlighting their dedication to creating healthier and more resilient communities. 

Meet our Team of Social Workers

Dillon Dodson, RSW, MSW – Director, Social Work        

Since childhood, Dillon has been passionate about the healing power of animals. She has always sought opportunities to bring people and animals together, whether through animal-assisted therapy or equine-facilitated therapy. Dillon’s educational background in Social Work includes a Bachelor’s Degree from McMaster University and a Master’s Degree from University of Toronto. She has also obtained certifications relevant to her field of specialization, including the Clinical Traumatologist designation from the Traumatology Institute Training Curriculum, the Supervisors/Managers Certificate from the Hostels Training Centre, and the Understanding and Managing Aggressive Behaviour certification. Dillon is also on the board of International Association of Veterinary Social Workers. With over  fifteen years of experience as a clinical social worker, Dillon is committed to providing the best possible care in situations that require immediate assistance. Her extensive background in supporting marginalized communities led us to implement the Urgent Care program and Wellness Popup Clinics.  

Andrea Badri, Social Worker Student 

Andrea is a compassionate individual with extensive clinical experience dedicated to supporting those navigating mental health challenges, particularly in the context of substance use. Growing up immersed in the world of veterinary care due to her father’s practice, Andrea has been actively involved in clinic work from a young age.  Her unique background and upbringing have fueled her deep commitment to fostering and preserving the human-animal bond. Andrea is characterized by an unwavering energy, enthusiasm, and a genuine passion for making a positive impact on the lives of individuals and families. Her contributions extend beyond the clinical setting, as she brings a remarkable influence on the broader community at Toronto Humane Society.  

Brianne Bennett, Social Worker Student 

Brianne hails from the West Coast and has experience supporting Indigenous-identifying persons on their path to connecting with their heritage and culture. Her tremendous energy, enthusiasm and passion for supporting the maintenance of the human-animal bond continues to have an incredible impact on the families she interacts with and the Toronto Humane Society as a whole. 

Tracy Xie, Social Worker Student 

Prior to commencing her social work education, Tracy completed her Bachelor of Psychology from the University of Saskatchewan.  Tracy’s interest in the therapeutic healing of the human-animal bond led her to live and work on a farm in Oregan.  Here she saw first-hand the unique bonding and relationship between livestock and their families and the interconnection of humans, animals and the environment.  Clinically, Tracy has experience utilizing Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA therapy) working with neurodivergent children and their families. Tracy is multilinguistic, proficient in Mandarin and American Sign Language and has enriched the Toronto Humane Society community with her keen interest, dedication, and commitment to supporting families with companion animals.