Not Just 9 to 5

May 13, 2013  

Kim Smith has devoted both her career and her personal life to saving animals


By Kaycie Goddard

Kim Smith is a devoted animal lover. Her resume boasts positions in multiple rescue and advocacy organizations, including President of Pit Bull Rescue San Diego (PBRSD) and the Senior Web and Community Manager of the Petco Foundation. If devoting a career to animals wasn’t enough, she dedicates the rest of her life to animals through caring for her dog, cats, rabbit, and rats, in addition to the many foster animals she’s helped to save. Kim is truly a hero to all animals, especially pit bulls.

“I can’t say that I’ve ever had a ‘favorite’ breed,” Kim says, “A dog is a dog, and individuals are as different as humans.” Kim’s work with rescue organizations began about ten years ago with her weekly “Fuzzies” e-newsletter, which features a compilation of local shelters’ available animals sent to all who subscribe.

Kim’s connections to shelters are what led her to team up with a fellow animal advocate to create PBRSD in 2005. “I figured it was time for me to take my next step in working for animals and I might as well do it for a ‘breed’ [pit bulls] that didn’t seem to have enough people advocating for them,” she says. Through the hard work and dedication to a successful advocacy group that she helped create, come many rewards. “It makes me super proud to be at the helm of such a trusted organization,” Kim says, “The biggest rewards are the sheer number of dogs that I get to meet. I think I’ve met well over 500 pit bulls at this point (fostered 30) and am a better person for it.”

Working with the Petco Foundation was an opportunity to combine her love of animals and her professional skills in web development. Kim describes herself as a reasonably shy person with the average animosity towards interviewing for a job. But when she went for the Web and Community Manager position at the Petco Foundation, her passion for PBRSD proved to her soon-to-be bosses that she was the person passionate enough to take a job that requires so much from a small number of people. “Petco Foundation is only made up of seven people so everything is done by people wearing multiple hats,” Kim explains. Her hats include all digital communication, including social media, website functions, email marketing, e-newsletters, and blogging. This amount of work on top of being the President of PBRSD could easily overwhelm a less invested person, but Kim’s passion and support system keep her going.

Not Just 9 to 5

In case that wasn’t enough on her plate, Kim’s home life is full of furry friends as well. She has a golden retriever named Borrego, two cats named Tobee and Buddy, a rabbit named Hef, and three rats named Wynken, Blynken, and Nod to care for at home. Kim has, until recently (due to an aging and dog-selective Borrego), remained active in fostering as many animals as she can. In the fight against “failed fostering,” Kim suggests pushing through by being tough on yourself to save more pets. “Giving up the first [foster] is going to be oh so hard and they [foster parents] are going to think that they’re doing the wrong thing and they’re going to cry like they’ve never cried. But they need to do it. I always tell myself that I don’t want even one dog to die in a shelter simply because I was so selfish that I couldn’t give a dog up,” Kim says.

Kim advises others looking to make a difference in animal welfare to “be thick-skinned but compassionate. The simple truth is that it is a problem bigger than one person can handle.” The burn out of the constant ebb and flow attached to fighting for animal welfare is a serious threat to any rescuer’s staying power. Having the strong support of friends and family, true passion for helping animals and other interests are vital. Kim says, “I learned a long time ago that one’s life cannot be only about one thing because if you burn out on that one thing or hit a lull, it feels like everything has fallen out from under you and you’ll have nothing to fall back on.”

The Opportunity to Make a National Difference

As Kim’s position for the Petco Foundation continues to evolve, she has become the National Pit Bull Advocacy Program Manager. Through this position she has traveled to speak at workshops and awarded grants to pit bull advocacy organizations throughout the country. “I’ve only just started but the prospects are very exciting—the opportunity to really make a national difference!” Kim says.

In regard to the progress that pit bulls have had in the public light, Kim is hopeful. “I think we’re seeing a lot less misinformation out there,” she says. “I think that Michael Vick was, ironically, one of the best things that happened to the pit bull movement in that he brought awareness to the cruelty that was being inflicted on this single breed of dogs,” Kim says, “It brought awareness to the fact that more pit bulls have been harmed by humans than vice versa.” She hopes that the attention brought because of fighting dogs will make it easier to see that the true issue is the person on the other end of the leash—not the pit bull.

“I know that, as the community manager for social media for the Petco Foundation, I get no better response to a post than when it is a pit bull post,” Kim says, “Pit bull people are passionate and dedicated and, I think, are slowly winning the battle.”

Note: All of the animals featured in this article have been fostered by Kim Smith.

This article was originally published on January 23, 2013.

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