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OVC Students Head North for First Nations Spay/Neuter Clinic

By Meagan Walker, OVC’2018

The Grey Bruce Aboriginal Qimmiq Team (GBAQT) is a team of Ontario veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and healthcare personnel who volunteer to provide humane canine population control and community education in remote First Nations communities in Northern Ontario. The group is led by OVC graduates Dr. Linda Bolton (OVC’84) and Dr. Allison Hooper (OVC’ 85).

The dog population on some of these reserves outnumbers the human population 2:1.  Stray dog populations present significant problems on First Nations Reserves such as mauling, pack aggression, and spread of zoonotic disease.  

This year, GBAQT teamed up with the OSPCA and another spay/neuter initiative (Beat the Heat Kenora) to provide a humane means of population control in Whitefish Bay, ON.

A tremendous amount of work is required to get these projects started.  It is important to respectfully partner with the communities who are interested in seeing a change.  Throughout the year, Drs. Bolton and Hooper are in communication with the reserves, arrange for a temporary license with the CVO, and organize the transportation of equipment and volunteers – definitely not an easy task but they do an incredible job!

This February, I had the opportunity to travel to Whitefish Bay, ON (about 5 hours north of Thunder Bay) with the GBAQT team.  During our time in these communities, we performed spays and neuters, provided parasite treatments, vaccinations, and animal identification and educated the community on humane animal care and bite prevention.

It was amazing to see such a dedicated group of volunteers working towards something they are truly passionate about.  Surgeries were performed on folding tables, IV poles were taped to counters, and oat bags were used as warming packs, but a lack of clinic luxuries did not slow the team from spaying and neutering 79 dogs.

The members of the communities expressed so much gratitude for our work, acknowledging the long trips we had made and the time and money we had volunteered.  The success of these trips depends not only on the skills we provide, but also on the willingness of the community to change.  Sustainable solutions for population control must be combined with education on responsible dog ownership as well as humane care.

I could not have asked for better mentors on this trip.  I learned so much watching these incredibly talented individuals work, and was able to witness first hand the differences they are making to these communities.

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In top photo: Meagan Walker, OVC’2018

In bottom photo: Meagan Walker, OVC’2018.and Amanda Saldivia- Woo, OVC’2017.