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Listening to the heart and lungs of a sled dog
Photo: Laura Sutton
The Community of Baker Lake and the
Canadian Animal Assistance Team:
A Successful Partnership!
Chris Robinson, Executive Director
The Canadian Animal Assistance Team
Many remote communities with little or no access to veterinary services deal with the common issue of dog overpopulation. Overwhelming numbers of unwanted puppies and dogs create both human and animal welfare issues. Dogs that are not owned or are allowed to roam without regular care may become malnourished and unhealthy due to limited resources, lack of shelter, challenges from other animals, etc. The increased risk to the human population, especially children, is from transmission of animal to human (zoonotic) diseases and increased dog bite incidents, often serious to fatal, due to pack aggression. In Canada the incidence of dog bites in many northern communities has been estimated to be at least ten times the national average! This is a very real issue.
In 2008 Baker Lake, Nunavut decided to make a difference in the animal and human welfare of its community. The residents who approached the Canadian Animal Assistance Team (CAAT) believed that working together with CAAT for long-term population control and animal welfare was the most effective way to approach the issues. The first veterinary project in 2009 was organized and CAAT performed 80 sterilization surgeries. During the second project in 2010, 81 sterilization surgeries were performed. In 2011, everyone involved in the organization of the third annual project was very happy to report that the team only needed to perform 30 sterilization surgeries, less than half of the two previous years! The same number of vaccinations were administered, approximately 175, as in previous years. These numbers reflect two very important things. There are fewer dogs in need of sterilization (our ultimate goal) and there are many community members who understand the importance of vaccines and are eager to continue with the vaccination program. Community members are stating that there are fewer puppies each year. They are also noticing a drop in unwanted animals and an increased awareness of the economic and social benefits of not having unlimited litters of puppies every spring.
These results could not have been achieved without the coordinated efforts of community members of Baker Lake and CAAT working together toward a common goal of responsible dog ownership and humane education for children. The residents of Baker Lake have truly been involved in the process of creating this partnership and they diligently continue with the work yet to be done. This partnership has resulted in a decline in dog population growth which has - and should continue for years to come - reduced the need for current culling practices (unless for humane reasons for individual animals). In 2012, community coordinators and CAAT will assess the needs for sustaining the level of sterilized versus unsterilized dogs, education needs and basic animal health care needs in the community.
A CAAT team member vaccinates while the dog’s owner assists.
Photo: Kristie Waddell
About CAAT: The Canadian Animal Assistance Team’s mission is to provide a range of veterinary services to communities with little or no access to veterinarians. As remote communities deal with the common issues of dog overpopulation and dog diseases like distemper and rabies, the services the team is most often asked to provide are vaccination, deworming and sterilization of dogs that the owners do not want to breed. Other services offered upon request are: medical and surgical treatment of illnesses and injuries, basic animal health care, and bite prevention strategies. CAAT is a registered Canadian charity.