Helping Indigenous communities access veterinary care
September 28, 2023
How our hospital teams and initiatives make a difference year-round
Annually, September 30 marks the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. and Orange Shirt Day. On this day, we honour the children who never returned home and survivors of residential schools, as well as their families and communities.
Through the Positive Pawprint Strategy, we’re committed to supporting diversity across the veterinary profession and within our business. We’re proud to partner with organizations and charities increasing access to animal care for Indigenous community members.
Support for veterinary care in Stoney Nakoda First Nation
VetStrategy is supporting the delivery of two preventive veterinary clinic events with Stoney Nakoda First Nation, west of Calgary, in November 2023 and March 2024 with a $25,000 donation to the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM).
In 2018, UCVM developed a youth outreach program with the community that brings veterinary medicine into the classroom in fun and interactive ways. They created the program with the guidance of an advisory council of elders and knowledge keepers from the Stoney Nakoda First Nation. In 2021, this partnership was expanded into a broad animal health program that includes ongoing youth engagement and knowledge exchange, vet student education, as well as providing veterinary services in the community.
“With this program, the relationship building with the Stoney Nakoda community begins in the first year of the veterinary program and continues throughout veterinary students’ time at UCVM. The program broadens the experiences of our vet students through engagement and shared learning experiences with the community and provides care for animals in the community,” explains Dr. Tessa Baker, the program lead.
The first preventive veterinary clinic event was held in the community in March 2023 and served over 130 clients including 318 dogs and cats. Free services provided at the clinic event included health exams, vaccinations, deworming medication, and spay/neuter surgery for dogs and cats. This event was successful and UCVM is continuing to partner with the community to provide biannual clinic events going forward.
Funding from VetStrategy will support the purchase of consumables, materials and equipment for the clinic events.
Dr. Katya Melnick, DVM with Bow River Veterinary Clinic (Canmore, AB) volunteered her time over the course of two days with the surgery team during the most recently held clinic. “Programs like this are so important to helping manage the issue of pet overpopulation,” said Dr. Melnick. “They reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases with spaying and neutering. Routine vaccines and deworming decrease viral, bacterial, and parasitic disease transfer. Every time this pop-up clinic is put on, the healthier we can make the pet population.” From her time in veterinary school, Dr. Melnick knows first-hand how important it is for students to be exposed to fast-paced clinics and learn about the different lifestyles healthy pets can have.
In addition to the time provided by Dr. Melnick, the entire team at Bow Valley Veterinary Clinic also gave back. They consulted on follow-up appointments for community members from Stoney Nakoda First Nation following treatment at the mobile clinic. VetStrategy’s support will be integral to the ongoing sustainability of the preventive veterinary care component of this animal health program over the next year within Stoney Nakoda First Nation. Our donation is supporting vital access to preventive services for dogs and cats in the community. It also provides UCVM students, faculty, and team members with opportunities to broaden their understanding of different cultures and views on animals.
More clinics supporting veterinary care for Indigenous communities
This winter, Oakbank Animal Hospital (Oakbank, MB) partnered with K9 Advocates, hosting a spay and neuter day at the clinic, supporting animals and pets from Berens River First Nation. “We spayed 11 dogs and 1 cat, and neutered 6 dogs and 7 cats,” said Practice Manager, Kitty Vonderbank. “It was a busy day, but we have an awesome team and it really showed!”
Clinique vétérinaire Donnacona (Donnacona, QC), in partnership with Chiots Nordiques, held two sterilization clinics in May and July. Their team of technicians, Dr. Karine Chaîné, Dr. Jessica St-Amand and Dr. Marie-Claude Séguin spayed and neutered 18 young dogs.
Sharing our Indigenous team members’ stories
As part of our celebration around National Indigenous Peoples Day in June, we sat down with team members, Maika Dussault. and Corrie Leader, who shared their journeys in staying connected to their Indigenous roots. If you missed these impactful interviews, it’s a great time to learn more.