IFAW team heads north to provide veterinary services to remote communities

Tuesday, 11 May, 2010
Guelph, Canada
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – www.ifaw.org) is sending a skilled team of veterinary and animal care professionals to the Cree communities of James Bay, Canada to provide otherwise unavailable veterinary care to local dogs and cats. Every spring for the past eight years, IFAW’s Northern Dogs team has set up mobile veterinary clinics that are visited by more than 500 animals during the three weeks the team is in the field.

The lack of access to animal care services in northern communities has resulted in many dog-related issues such as dog overpopulation, disease and bites. These issues impact the health and safety of community members and can create negative attitudes towards dogs.  As a result, dog health and welfare are also affected.  In many communities without access to animal control services or shelters, dogs are shot to control their numbers, creating controversy both within these communities and beyond.  

Jan Hannah, IFAW’s Northern Dogs Project Manager, says such issues are merely symptomatic of deeper problems.“Unfortunately, the issue of dogs in native communities only reaches the media when a child is mauled or when dogs are killed. But owned and unowned roaming dogs are perceived to be an ongoing health and safety risk. Dog culls may provide short-term relief, but this is only a band-aid solution” says Hannah. “IFAW not only works to provide veterinary services for these animals, but we also work with communities to address the root causes of these issues.”

According to Hannah, education is vital to the Northern Dogs project. A humane educator travels with the veterinary team to each community, and speaks with upwards of 1200 students per visit.

“In order for communities to achieve long-term success, we must work together to change attitudes and behaviours around dogs and dog issues. An important component of this is education, which is why this is such a big part of our yearly visits,” concluded Hannah.

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