Residents of Fort Simpson were given a chance to take their pets to see a veterinarian as the NWT SPCA set up shop at the community rec center in late April.
Dr. Michelle Tuma, a veterinarian who is based out of Yellowknife and has worked in a number of communities throughout the NWT, treated a total of 107 animals at the fully booked clinic that took place between April 16 to 20.
“We were welcomed with open arms into the community,” said Tuma. “Everyone in the community was very happy to see us.”
The idea to host the clinic first came about through talks between the SPCA and Fort Simpson resident Troy Bellefontaine, that took place just over a year ago. Bellefontaine began pushing for the organization to visit the community after his stepmother, a long time nurse and original person to go to for injured pets, left the community.
“My stepmother, who was a nurse, was the original go to (person) when people had injured pets,” said Bellefontaine. “When she left, I sort of became that person but I’m not a nurse, so I had to send the animals to the SPCA most of the time.”
Bellefontaine said he had hoped to get the clinic into the community much earlier, but the community had to deal with a number of obstacles – such as funding as well as complications with the ice road – that made getting the necessary people into town difficult. Despite the troubles with timing, Bellefontaine said the response from the community has been very positive.
“People have dropped off cinnamon buns at the office,” he said. “People have wanted a vet to come in at the right time.”
While, funding was initially an obstacle that the clinic had to face, Dr. Tuma said that thanks to generous donations from Dezoa Gogha and First Air, they were able to offer reduced rates throughout the week.
“We were able to subsidize the cost” said Tuma about offering $150 spays and neuters. “Down south it would cost about $350 depending on the size of the dog.”
The success of the clinic is a good sign moving forward, according to Tuma. She said it is important that residents have access to vets at least once a year. Both, Bellefontaine and Tuma, agree it would be beneficial to have annual visits with communities without a full-time veterinarian office.
“It’s important for animal overpopulation and public health as well,” said Tuma. “We are hoping to visit any community that doesn’t have veterinarian services, at least once a year.”
Bellefontaine said there are already plans in place to start that annual cycle.
“There’s a woman in Wrigley that is raising money to get a clinic in her community” Bellefontaine said. “Hopefully we can get into Jean Marie River, Nahanni Butte and Trout Lake as well.”
As of right now, Tuma said she is scheduled to run a clinic in Nunavut next month and in Behchoko in June of this year.