GOODWILL: Ladybird Animal Sanctuary

Melissa McClelland, Lisa Winn and Janine Stoll, three close friends of musical fame, took their collective passion and put it into saving the lives of animals. Each a one-time Hamilton resident, the girls have shared not only their talent but a common bond of loving animals. Wanting to do something different and meaningful, theirs was an easy decision. In 2011 the ladies formulated Ladybird Animal Sanctuary, and have since rescued more than 240 animals from Hamilton high kill shelters, saving them from certain death.

“Our story is one of music, friendship and concern for animal welfare,” says McClelland, speaking to me from New York City. Currently on tour with husband Luke Doucet, and their award winning duo Whitehorse, they are the opening act for Canada's own Barenaked Ladies. As important to her as her music, is her devotion to her friends. “I met Janine and Lisa over 10 years ago and we formed a group called the Ladybird Sideshow. We toured across Canada and recorded a live album.”

Extensively on the road, McClelland uses her platform to speak to the audience about animal welfare. “Education is everything.  People need to spay, neuter and license their pets, and cats should not be allowed to roam free for a whole host of reasons.”

Each Ladybird has a significant role in the operation of the charity. A smooth running machine amongst friends, McClelland is outreach; in charge of promotion, donations, and funding. Stoll manages the financial, website and is responsible for creative and marketing. And both McClelland and Stoll will agree, Winn is at the heart of the project providing endless hours of hands-on dedication. 

The art of saving animals is a delicate one. Hard on the heart and soul, Winn visits high-kill shelters and selects as many animals as they can afford at one given time. “Every time it breaks my heart for the ones I leave behind.”

Statistics show that approximately 4,000 cats are taken into animal services annually where nearly half are euthanized within 72 hours. “For some reason people feel cats are easy to discard,” says Winn. An established singer and songwriter, closest to Winn's heart are the animals she relentlessly works on saving. “Unfortunately vet costs for spaying and neutering are very high in Hamilton. Whereas cats are easily accessible to acquire in low-income neighbourhoods, their medical health and welfare is not. Cats are very sensitive and it speaks to the type of human you are to just get rid of another being.”

Hamilton has a very high euthanasia rate. Saving an animal is expensive. Relying solely on donor dollars, after the rescue and vet bills, Ladybird pays for the food and medical while the animal waits in foster care until it can be placed in its forever home. 

Stoll, solo artist and band member of The Donefors, says that cats are deemed disposable in today's society. “We can't take them all; there are so many. Luckily we can see our long-term goal.”

The goal of the Ladybird Animal Sanctuary is to buy a property in Southern Ontario, near Hamilton. Currently rescuing dogs, cats and small animals their long term objective is to open their sanctuary to also include farm animals at risk.”

The Ladybirds often perform as a means for funding and provide youth incentives to involve and educate the young. As McClelland says nightly on stage, “We need: donors, fosterers, volunteers and sponsors…you are these animals' future. You are our saving grace.”

Held in Hamilton, this Christmas will be the 3rd Annual Benefit Concert to entertain, inform, and make money for their dream sanctuary. Theirs is a forever friendship as is the lifelong commitment to Ladybird Animal Sanctuary. In the simple words of McClelland; “We domesticated these animals so it is our responsibility to protect them.”

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