OTTAWA,ON, May 30, 2023 — Veterinarians Without Borders/Vétérinaires Sans Frontières (VWB/VSF) has received a grant from PetSmart Charities of Canada™ in the amount of $120,000 to address challenges in accessing sustainable veterinary care in the remote Inuit communities of Gjoa Haven and Igloolik, Nunavut, as part of the Northern Animal Health Initiative (NAHI).
The remoteness of Nunavut communities, institutional barriers, and high costs to travel to access animal services have left many communities out of the veterinary care system altogether. This grant program supports innovative and culturally relevant veterinary programs focused on increasing access to animal health care, where veterinary access has been a key challenge.
Early in 2023, PetSmart Charities of Canada, the top funder of animal welfare in the country, announced an $18 million commitment over the next five years toward improving access to veterinary care. The “Incubator” grant program, focused on changing how to support veterinary care in historically excluded Indigenous communities, is a significant pillar of that commitment.
Dr. Michelle Tuma, Northern Canada Veterinary Specialist at VWB/VSF shared: “I was born and raised in Northwest Territories where access to veterinary care has always been limited. I have been providing veterinary services to remote communities across Nunavut and Northwest Territories for nine years and PetSmart Charities of Canada has supported many of these projects. I am excited to work with the PetSmart Charities of Canada team, once again, with the Incubator Grant to support animal health in Gjoa Haven and Igloolik and build sustainable community capacity.”
While nearly 60% of Canadian households include pets, access to basic veterinary services has not kept pace. This is particularly felt in communities that have additional barriers beyond cost, including cultural barriers and a lack of veterinary services in the vicinity. In the remote fly-in communities of Nunavut, pets play important roles, but accessing resources to support animals being healthy can be challenging.
With reconciliation considerations integrated into the approach, grantees will build relationships and assess specific needs before helping to design long-term veterinary services. This ensures that communities that have been left out are deliberately included in deciding how and when they will access the healthcare they need for their pets. This impactful grant builds on VWB/VSF’s Northern Animal Health Initiative (NAHI), which has partnered with over 10 remote communities in the Canadian territories upon their invitation.
In the Northern Animal Health Initiative program, VWB/VSF’s team of staff and volunteer veterinary professionals work with communities to identify needs and build a plan with community leads to increase local capacity to address animal care needs year-round. This includes offering temporary veterinary clinics to provide onsite vaccinations, health checks, and spay and neuter surgeries, while also providing scholarships and bursaries for animal health education or careers, and training locals to deliver primary care.
“Nearly 1 in 5 Canadians struggle to access even basic preventative care such as spay/neuter procedures, vaccinations and annual exams,” said Kate Atema, director of community grants & initiatives at PetSmart Charities of Canada. “While this issue affects families in nearly every community, those who have been historically excluded from human social services are most in need of pet services. We’re proud to support an innovative approach that meets the unique needs identified by those with lived experiences that have struggled to gain access to veterinary care themselves.”
Pictured above, dog, Xerxes, the first vaccine patient on the first day of VWB/VSF’s Gjoa Haven clinic. Fortunately for Xerxes and his owner, George, when Xerxes injured his paw just days later, the team was still in the community, finishing up the final day of their visit. The veterinarian was able to triage the injury and teach George, as well as other community members, how to wrap it and keep it dry with materials on hand. The team provided supplies to help the owner continue care until fully healed. In speaking with George in a recent visit to Gjoa Haven this May, the team learned that Xerxes healed well and is back to outrunning his owner when they are outside.
If you are interested in learning more about the Northern program or Veterinarians without Borders/Vétérinaires sans Frontières please visit our website to learn more.
About Veterinarians Without Borders/Vétérinaires Sans Frontières
Using a One Health approach, Veterinarians Without Borders (VWB) works for, and with, communities in need to foster the health of animals, people and the environments that sustain us. VWB works in Africa and Asia to improve the living conditions of the most disadvantaged rural populations through veterinary and agricultural services, sustainable animal production, training, value chain development and sustainable natural resource management. Additionally, we support remote Northern Canadian communities to improve animal health through temporary spay and neuter clinics, reduce the spread of rabies, and work to create the conditions for long-term, community-led sustainable animal health services.
About VWB/VSF Northern Health Animal Initiative
The Northern Animal Health Initiative is focused on improving animal health in the Canadian North by providing services and resources to build capacity in underserved communities in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. Veterinarians without Borders develops partnerships with remote communities in the Canadian territories upon their invitation. We work with them to identify needs and build a plan with community representatives to build local capacity to address animal care needs year-round. This includes offering temporary veterinary clinics with a team of volunteers. Our aim is to build a sustainable framework that will create the conditions for lasting, community-driven animal health.
About PetSmart Charities of Canada™
PetSmart Charities of Canada is committed to making the world a better place for pets and all who love them. Through its in-store adoption program in all PetSmart® stores across the country, PetSmart Charities of Canada helps thousands of pets connect with loving families each year. PetSmart Charities of Canada also provides grant funding to support organizations that advocate and care for the well-being of all pets and their families. Our grants and efforts connect pets with loving homes through adoption, improve access to affordable veterinary care and support families in times of crisis with access to food, shelter, and emergency relief. Each year, thousands of generous supporters help pets in need by donating to PetSmart Charities of Canada directly at PetSmartCharities.ca, while shopping at PetSmart.ca, and by using the PIN pads at checkout registers inside PetSmart stores. In turn, PetSmart Charities of Canada efficiently uses more than 90 cents of every dollar donated to fulfill its role as the leading funder of animal welfare in Canada, granting more than $25 million since its inception in 1999. Independent from PetSmart LLC, PetSmart Charities of Canada is a registered Canadian charity. To learn more visit www.PetSmartCharities.ca.
VWB/VSF media contact
C: +1 343-633-0272, x 114
24-Hour PetSmart Charities
Media Line: 623-587-217