Canada: Providing veterinary care in remote Cree communities

Fifteen hours from Toronto, in the remote taiga region in the province of Quebec, IFAW is providing veterinary services to the dogs of the eight communities that make up the Cree Nation on the east side of James Bay.

These communities have little or no access to animal medical services or assistance with their dog related nuisance, health, and safety issues. As a result, animals can suffer from improper care, cruelty, and untreated illness and injuries. 

Since 2002, IFAW’s Northern Dogs Project uses education and outreach, veterinary services, assistance with dog-related bylaws and re-homing to help foster sustainable, humanely managed dog populations.

Ending inhumane animal control practices

Historically, dogs in Cree society were used for hunting, sledding and guarding the perimeter of camp. They were considered an important part of the family.  But as Cree land has been subject to development, the role of dogs has changed. They are no longer a working partner and not yet a responsibly cared-for companion.

Today, owned and unowned roaming dogs are perceived as a health risk and a nuisance and dog overpopulation is considered a problem by community members. As a result, dogs are often the victims of cruelty, ignorance and neglect.

  • Without adequate food, water, shelter or veterinary care, many dogs left to fend for themselves simply die of starvation or exposure.
  • Sick, injured and excess dogs and puppies are rounded up and killed. During so-called “dog-shoot” days, any dog not tied up is shot.
  • As well as the suffering of the animals, the shooting of dogs causes considerable psychological distress to those who have to perform the task.

Northern communities are looking for effective and humane solutions that will allow dogs and humans to prosper together.

How IFAW’s Northern Dogs Project makes a difference
Each year, IFAW’s Northern Dogs Project takes a team of vets and educators to these remote and underserved communities. As well as providing clinics for much needed veterinary services, they teach community members how to create stable, healthy dog populations.

During these clinics the vets perform spay/neuter surgeries, vaccinate against diseases and de-worm animals. In one year, the mobile services respond to approximately 500 dogs. And, in just one day, 50 to 200 animals are vaccinated and up to 60 can be sterilized.

Education is a key to changing attitudes about dogs and their care, and ultimately, to creating informed and compassionate dog owners and communities. Educators visit upwards of 500 students and outreach includes advertisements, posters, radio interviews and even one-on-one consultations.

By partnering in the Cree Nation in this way, we have helped make life better for dogs and their people.