For those living in Canada’s North, dogs play an integral role in the communities in which they live. But with limited or no access to consistent vet services, many animals tend to live shorter lives due to often preventable or treatable conditions. Veterinarians Without Borders/ Vétérinaires sans frontiers (VWB/VSF) has been committed to improving access to care in remote communities for over a decade, and with the support of a $123,300 grant awarded in 2019 by PetSmart Charities of Canada, is working to further support animals and communities in Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon.
Dogs are happy to play in the snow in Yellowknife
The Northern Animal Health Initiative project aims to help bring animal care to Canada’s North using a One Health model, which combines animal health together with other disciplines to address the health of animals, people, and the physical environment in an interconnected way.
The project began by setting up the framework for the program and connecting with members representing Indigenous communities, veterinarian services, wildlife services, animal control, veterinarian college and regulatory body, education and public health, with plans to begin clinics in the North in the spring of 2020. But when the COVID-19 pandemic began to affect travel allowed within Canada and specifically to Canada’s North, the team was able to pivot their focus to providing virtual solutions.
Dr. Michelle Tuma enjoying some puppy love in Yellowknife
VWB/VSF will use part of its grant funding to develop innovative service delivery models to best service communities, such as telehealth, which will not only help address some of the vet service delivery gaps but also provide a safe way to provide care while maintaining social distancing. “VWB/VSF is proud and honoured to partner with PetSmart Charities of Canada and small communities in the Canadian North to ensure that animal care needs are met, as much as possible,” said John Vanleeuwen, chair of the Northern Committee for the organization.
Dr Rob Klemmensen performing surgery in Wrigley NT in Sept 2019, while Jessica Ginter RVT and Dr Michelle Tuma monitor
In September 2020, VWB/VSF will host its first Virtual Summit and will include presentations by Northern community members, wildlife officers, veterinarians and educators on topics such as First Aid for Dogs, Raising a Healthy, Happy Dog, Careers in Animal Care and Management, and the Historical Use of Working Dogs in Canada’s North. The summit, which is free of charge to members of the Northern communities they serve, is just one example of how VWB/VSF will continue to support the animals in Canada’s North until they are able to be there in person again.
To learn more about Veterinarians Without Borders/Vétérinaires sans frontiers and their work within Canada and throughout the world, visit their website