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Help on wheels: Mobile vet fights pet overpopulation in rural B.C.
Veterinarian Dr. Pam Barker, left, Anne Timothy, Anahim Lake nurses Dominica Lueth and Anita Madsen, and registered vet tech Michelle Collett. [Handout].
Aggressive behavior. Male dogs wandering far from home. Neglect of stray pets. Animal cruelty.
These are just some of the challenges a First Nations community, a mobile veterinary business and the BC SPCA are working to counter in the province’s Cariboo region.
The Ulkatcho First Nation, located in the rural community of Anahim Lake, was having a pet overpopulation problem – so they reached out to the Cariboo Country Mobile Veterinary Services.
“There were a lot of animals running around loose, and they wanted our help in controlling their companion animal population,” says Mark Collett, marketing director for the Cariboo Mobile Vet.
“There were lots of pets in the community, and lots without owners…It can get into a big problem pretty quickly.”
The solution? Spay and neuter a large number of cats and dogs in the community to prevent unwanted litters of puppies and kittens.
Sterilized animals are less likely to roam or fight, are less likely to develop cancers in their reproductive organs, and are less likely to inappropriately mark and urinate.
Working with a Spay/Neuter Legacy Grant from the BC SPCA, Collett travelled to the community with veterinarians Pam Barker and registered vet tech Michelle Collett in their mobile clinic.
“I drove around the community with the [Ulkatcho First Nation] blessing, and we literally rounded up animals,” says Collett. “Then I brought them to the trailer and we fixed them…It was lots of fun!”
Seventy cats and dogs were sterilized by the team during two visits in May and September. Further, many of the stray animals were adopted by community members or brought to the Williams Lake SPCA and rehomed.
Anita Madsen has lived in the community for 35 years, and helped the vet team locate animals to sterilize. She also adopted one of the strays, a dog named Shadow.
“In my 35 years here as a resident, I’ve seen a lot of cruel things happen to animals,” says Madsen. “So this is about saving the animals lives, but most importantly giving them a quality life.”
Madsen says it can be very challenging for people living in rural B.C. communities to access care for their pets, making the team’s work even more important.
“The vet clinic did an amazing job… and Mark and I had a lot of fun going around, rescuing dogs and cats,” she chuckles. “I get information back from the owners, and most of the reports that I had have all been very positive, about what a difference it’s made for them and for their animals.”
It costs between $150 to $300 to spay or neuter a cat or a dog, depending on the animal’s size and gender. Collett says the grant from the BC SPCA - which covered 75 per cent of all costs - was invaluable.
Outreach coordinator Megan Munroe said the BC SPCA is thrilled to support projects like this one.
“Huge disparities in access to affordable spay and neuter services exist throughout the province,” she says. “When members of a community come together to address the problem, it helps provide a successful solution and sets a fantastic example for other B.C. communities to follow.”
Inspired by their successes, the vet team wants to return to the Ulkatcho First Nations community several more times to continue their work – but Collett says another veterinarian is urgently needed.
“We’re in desperate need of trying to find a vet,” he says. “Our plan is to actually open up another mobile trailer, and work even closer with the SPCA, but we can’t do it without another vet.”
Interested in joining the team? Contact Cariboo Country Mobile Veterinary Services at cariboomobilevet.com.