A puppy with her teddy bear, Colville Lake NWT. Andrea Storch Photo.
Partnering with Canadian vet schools and northern communities
In early 2017 VWB/VSF launched an expanded initiative to support Canada’s veterinary colleges in providing veterinary care to remote, under-served communities in Canada’s North. The initiative has received generous funding from Vetoquinol and travel support from Aeroplan.
To date, the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, the Faculté de médicine vétérinaire, Université de Montréal, and the Atlantic Veterinary College at UPEI have signed on to the program. All have previous experience coordinating veterinary programs in remote communities. Details are still being worked out with the Ontario College of Veterinary Medicine. While the current agreements are for one year, VWB/VSF is hoping that the coordinated effort will become a permanent program.
As with previous efforts, the focus of the initiative will be the health of dogs, ensuring that they are vaccinated against diseases such as rabies, parvo virus and distemper, and are treated for illness and injury. Spaying and neutering services are also available and treatment will also be offered to cats and other animals as needed.
The Importance of Working With Communities
Community partnerships are critically important for the success of these programs. The longstanding relationship between northern peoples and dogs continues to evolve and recognition of the historical and cultural context of this relationship is important to consider in the implementation of any veterinary services program. All of the veterinary colleges involved in the initiative have experience partnering with northern communities and respecting the context in which they are working.
For example, the 10 year old program by the University of Calgary program in the Sahtu region of the Northwest Territories works with the schools to ensure engagement of youth in clinics; some of these youth have gone on to pursue health related careers. Fourth-year vet students are prepared for their 2.5 week immersion in the Sahtu through a week of training in cultural awareness, veterinary practice in remote regions, and public health and policy issues. The Université de Montréal has addressed the changing relationship between dogs and humans in Nunavik (Northern Quebec) through research as well as education programs in schools. That work is designed to reduce the number of dog bites suffered by children. The Université de Montréal has also created a first aid kit for dogs and has instructed local people in its use.The UPEI program in Labrador has worked with First Nation’s band councils to reduce the number of roaming dogs through a registry and by implanting microchips. The Lac LaRonge Band council has been instrumental in organization the WCVM’s mobile clinics in Northern Saskatchewan.Before participating in the clinics, veterinary students complete a cultural awareness seminar highlighting the history and culture of Saskatchewan’s First Nations people.
For VWB/VSF this initiative represents an important step forward in improving access to veterinary care for underserved Canadian communities.
Dr. Susan Kutz has coordinated the University of Calgary`s program in the Northwest Territories for the past 10 years.