Nunatsiaq News
FEATURES: Iqaluit February 01, 2018 - 1:30 pm

Many furry patients at Iqaluit’s pop-up animal clinic

“In one day that’s quite spectacular"

BETH BROWN
This somewhat rattled little dog named Tootsie is ready to go home after “getting fixed” along with his dog siblings, Rocky and Chunky, during a free vet clinic in Iqaluit, Jan. 31. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)
This somewhat rattled little dog named Tootsie is ready to go home after “getting fixed” along with his dog siblings, Rocky and Chunky, during a free vet clinic in Iqaluit, Jan. 31. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)
Vets work on a male dog during a free vet clinic at the Roman Catholic parish hall in Iqaluit, Jan. 31. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)
Vets work on a male dog during a free vet clinic at the Roman Catholic parish hall in Iqaluit, Jan. 31. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)
Holly Eegeesiak with her dog Cody, who is waiting for vaccinations at a free vet clinic in Iqaluit, Jan. 31. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)
Holly Eegeesiak with her dog Cody, who is waiting for vaccinations at a free vet clinic in Iqaluit, Jan. 31. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)

Pet carriers full of furry patients line the floor of Iqaluit’s Roman Catholic parish hall where a makeshift animal hospital is set up this week. 

The Iqaluit Humane Society said earlier this month it expected around 80 families to access free vet services at its five-day clinic. But on day one alone, 88 Iqaluit pets received veterinary care. 

“In one day that’s quite spectacular,” said humane society president Janelle Kennedy.

The free clinic runs until Friday, Feb. 2.

There are two veterinarians and two veterinarian technicians working at the pop-up animal clinic, paid for with charitable funding—and a fair number of donated flight points—applied for by the Iqaluit Humane Society.

While pet owners are now lining up for walk-in and prearranged appointments, the free clinics caused a stir in the community after they were announced a few weeks ago. 

At a recent city council meeting, Iqaluit vet Leia Cunningham said the clinics were threatening the success of her self-built business, NunaVet, which is Nunavut’s only animal hospital.

But Kennedy said in an interview on Wednesday, Jan. 31, that free clinics done in areas where there is low veterinary intake have been proven to increase public use of paid vet services, because the clinics educate pet owners about the benefits of veterinary care.

“Usually in the years following [a free clinic] there is an increase in the use of paid vet services,” she said. “It introduces veterinary care to people who wouldn’t normally access it.”

Lots of the dogs receiving care this week are animals that currently live at the shelter and are in need of homes.

And some dogs coming in for spay and neuter surgeries are animals that have had litters of puppies that were taken in by the shelter in the past. These surgeries mean that those dogs won’t have more litters that would require aid from the humane society, Kennedy said.

The clinics are open to everyone in the community, but are targeted at families who couldn’t otherwise afford veterinarian services, or who find vet bills to be a burden.

But Kennedy said it’s not in the society’s purview to say who should and who shouldn’t access the clinic.

“We have a no-judgment policy,” she said, adding that it’s not uncommon in Nunavut for a single salary to be supporting a large household.

“You might not have money left over for the dog or the cat.” 

Besides creating access to affordable vet care, the clinics providing free spay and neuter services help curb an overpopulation of dogs in the city.

“They’re not something you do every year, you try and address overpopulation issues in other ways, but it does have a dramatic impact to, every once in awhile, address the problem like this,” Kennedy said of the spay and neuter services. 

Since the temporary clinics can’t offer all vet services, the society is referring people to NunaVet.

The humane society offered a similar clinic in Igloolik last year and has plans to host clinics in Pond Inlet and Cape Dorset soon.

Kennedy said the humane society would like to work towards an SPCA model, but with no government funding and limited legislation in Nunavut on the treatment of animals, that transition isn’t likely to happen any time soon.

“It’s going to be a long road to get there,” she said. 

Kennedy thanked members of the public for bringing donations of food and supplies and for volunteering their time to help with the clinic.

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