Photo C/O Raina Kirn

For over a decade, Ladybird Animal Sanctuary has rescued abandoned, neglected and abused animals, while hoping to establish their own farmhouse one day

By: Pallavi Mukherjee, Contributor

Melissa McClelland, Janine Stoll and Lisa Winn have been close friends for years. They met through their music and started their own music group, the Ladybird Sideshow in 2001. One evening some 11 years ago, the conversation steered towards animals. It was then they realized how many of them are abandoned or given up to shelter homes, and if these homes could no longer hold onto them, the animals were euthanized. 

“[W]e thought, why can’t we sort of be stewards for these animals? Why can’t we go in and take some of these animals out and work hard and network and see if we can get them adopted?” Stoll explained. 

“[W]e thought, why can’t we sort of be stewards for these animals? Why can’t we go in and take some of these out and work hard and network and see if we can get them adopted?”

Janine Stoll, Co-Founder of Ladybird Animal Sanctuary

The idea for the Ladybird Animal Sanctuary was born. The sanctuary’s mission is to provide a safe haven to abandoned, abused, neglected and “hard-to-adopt” animals, including animals with special needs, animals who have different behavioural patterns and cats with leukemia. For over a decade, the sanctuary operated through a reliable network of volunteers, veterinarians and foster homes wanting to adopt animals. 

A cat named Oliver became the group’s first rescue in December 2010. A shelter cat diagnosed with feline leukemia, he was likely going to be euthanized before Winn brought him home. Oliver is now doing well, having been adopted by his foster home in 2012.

The animals brought into Ladybird are first taken for veterinary tests, before being set up for adoption. The sanctuary rescues animals not only from shelter homes in Southern Ontario but also from Central Ontario and Quebec with the help of Freedom Drivers, a community organization of volunteer drivers across the Maritimes, Quebec and Ontario who transport hard-to-adopt animals from pounds to rescues. 

Ladybird works immensely hard to find the perfect adopter as their aim is to find a home for them, where the animals receive constant support, where they are loved and appreciated for who they are.

Currently, Ladybird relies heavily on donations from the public. To raise funds and awareness about the sanctuary, they have been hosting concerts, events and festivals. However, the last 18 months of the pandemic made hosting any events extremely difficult as such gatherings would have seen 200 people indoors. To continue their operations, in July 2020 Ladybird initiated a 50/50 charity lottery to help raise money for homeless animals. 

“The way 50/50 lottery works is people buy a ticket, all the money goes into the pot and if you win, you get half of the pot. So last month the grand prize winner got $6,000.” Stoll explained. “You just have to be 18 years or older and also need to purchase the tickets in Ontario.” 

Ultimately, the Ladybird Animal Sanctuary’s dream is to establish a physical space for the animals and the Ladybird community to live and grow together. McClelland, Stoll and Winn are hoping to create this space in the form of a farm somewhere in Southern Ontario.

Ultimately, the Ladybird Animal Sanctuary’s dream is to establish a physical space for the animals and the Ladybird community to live and grow together.

“For 10 years we’ve been a system of volunteer foster homes. We want to have a home base. Our original vision was to have a sanctuary, but we had to learn what we were doing first, finding out about animal rescue and how to run a charity. Now we feel like we’re ready,” said McClelland in an interview with the Hamilton Spectator in December 2020.

In December 2020, Ladybird hosted a virtual music concert with a number of artists, including Bryan Adams, Jann Arden, Sarah McLachlan and the Barenaked Ladies, among others, to help fundraise for the farm. The concert also featured a special reunion of their own band as well. Almost 3,000 people tuned in to view the concert virtually while 100 monthly donor members signed up that day. 

An act of kindness goes a long way. Giving another individual a second chance at life doesn’t only mean the world to them but it can also change the way you see life. Other than volunteering, providing foster homes or adopting animals rescued by Ladybird, students can get involved through many fundraising activities.  

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