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Dozens line up for free vet care as Helping Paws celebrates 5th anniversary in Nanaimo


Ron Leonard and Tina Dodd got up early and were at the front of the line.

“We got here at 7,” said Leonard.

“It’s very expensive to go to the vet,” said Dodd.

They were among nearly 40 people who came to the Saint Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Nanaimo on Thursday. They were there to get their four-legged family members much needed medical treatment, free of charge, through a program called Helping Paws.

“If it wasn’t for this place, I wouldn’t be able to afford to keep her,” said Debbie Little.

Little has been bringing her dog Sandy to the free vet clinic for the past three years.

“They’ve helped so many people that can’t afford to keep their pets,” she said.

Started in 2019 by veterinarian Courtenay Large, Helping Paws has facilitated an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 free vet visits to homeless or low-income people.

“Our focus is wellness care,” said Large. “Trying to focus on preventative medicine so hopefully we can keep our pets nice and healthy, so that people can avoid those unexpected vet bills.”

Service include an exam with a veterinarian for up to two animals, an identification microchip if needed, vaccines, deworming, and flea and tick medication.

“It’s going to put you at $250 or $300 at the vet clinic when you get that done,” said Large.

Roughly 20 veterinarians and assistants were all donating their time and expertise. Mary-Jane Bowie has been a veterinarian for 42 years and was one of those volunteering on Thursday.

“I love to give back and there’s a lot of need out there,” said Bowie.

She says she pitches in because that need is only growing in the community.

“People are so grateful and happy that their pets are being taken care of,” said Bowie.

After a long morning, Dodd finally got 17-year-old Zorro in for his appointment.

“What he just had done, would be hundreds of dollars at a vet,” said Dodd.

She says Zorro is her best friend and she couldn’t be more thankful for the care he received.

“If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be able to give him the care that he deserves,” said Dodd.

That goes for Zorro and thousands of other animals just like him that have received free medical care through Helping Paws over the past five years. Top Stories

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