Veterinarians without Borders/Vétérinaires sans frontieres is pleased to announce the recipients of its 2020 Northern Animal Health Initiative bursaries. Kaitlyn Denroche and Kirstyn Falck will each receive $3500 to help finance their pursuit of animal health-related education.
Kaitlyn Denroche from Yellowknife NWT is currently in the third year of a four-year DVM program at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Animals have always been a big part of her life and she believes it is her calling as a veterinarian to provide animals with comfort and care. She recognizes that some of the emotionally challenging duties of a veterinarian, such as euthanasia, are a grace that veterinarians are given to perform for animals who are suffering.
Kirstyn Falck grew up off the grid 35 km outside of Yellowknife. Animals were also a defining element throughout her life, and while she considered a career in veterinary medicine her passion for animals in the wild directed her toward a career in wildlife biology. She is currently in her fifth year as a co-op student at the University of British Columbia Okanagan Campus pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a minor in Earth and Environmental Science. Her particular focus is on the study of ecology and wildlife biology relating to a holistic approach to environmental science. Kirstyn’s co-op work placement is as a Wildlife Health Technician with the Government of the Northwest Territory’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
The Northern Animal Health Initiative receives generous funding from PetSmart Charities of Canada.
Vet Tech Jessica Ginter, left, and Dr. Michelle Tuma prepare a nervous patient for surgery during a VWB/VSF clinic in Fort Liard NWT.
In 2017, a study conducted on behalf of VWB/VSF found 54 remote communities of 100 or more families in Canada’s three northern territories with little or no access to veterinary services. In those communities, animals tend to live shorter lives, dying from causes that are either treatable or preventable. There is also a very real health threat to people. In some communities, the inability to control dog populations puts humans, particularly children, at risk from dog attacks. As well, unvaccinated dogs can transfer diseases, including rabies, to humans.
For more than a decade, VWB/VSF has supported other organizations, primarily Canadian veterinary colleges, in their efforts to provide veterinary services in remote northern communities. In 2017 and again in 2018 VWB/VSF brought together experts, community leaders, stakeholders and organizations working to provide veterinary services in the north to discuss coordination and best practices for northern animal care and to map a direction forward. In 2019, VWB/VSF began offering its own veterinary clinics.
VWB/VSF’s efforts to improve animal care in the North have been greatly assisted through generous funding from PetSmart Charities of Canada, travel assistance from Aeroplan, through a valuable partnership with the Northwest Territories SPCA, and through support from individuals, businesses, non-governmental organizations, foundations, and government agencies.
There are some core principles that guide this program.
- Like all of VWB/VSF’s work, the northern program is built on a “One Health” model, acknowledging that animal and human health, and environmental sustainability, are inextricably linked and must be approached holistically.
- The people with the most at stake and the best understanding of the issues are members of the communities involved. Community partnerships are essential to success.
- Improving animal health in remote communities requires consistency and a long-term commitment.
- There are private veterinary clinics operating in Canada’s north. VWB/VSF will ensure that its efforts do not affect those businesses, and where possible, those hardworking and knowledgeable veterinarians will be consulted about the work.
- Increase access to veterinary services through volunteer run temporary clinics in remote, underserved communities. In 2019, volunteers traveled to Taloyoak, Fort Liard and Wrigley to spay/neuter, vaccinate and care for domestic animals in those communities. Plans are underway to visit those and other communities in 2020.
- Facilitate coordination and collaboration among current veterinary service efforts in northern communities involving northern partners, including communities, local and regional governments, and existing veterinary service and animal care providers, to ensure long-term sustainable animal health and veterinary services in these communities.
- Develop best practices and regulatory frameworks, in partnership with northern indigenous communities and relevant regulatory bodies, to ensure that animal health and veterinary service delivery is appropriate from veterinary, cultural and ethical standpoints.
- Explore options for telehealth, community animal management workers, and linkages with clinics in southern Canada to support community’s animal health needs.