Taking the pay out of ‘spay’ – pet owners in Pelly Crossing appreciative of free three-day pet clinic

Pet owners were allowed to wait with their dogs in the recovery area at the Pelly Crossing pet clinic, held from June 1 to 3. (Courtesy/Darcy Marcotte)Pet owners were allowed to wait with their dogs in the recovery area at the Pelly Crossing pet clinic, held from June 1 to 3. (Courtesy/Darcy Marcotte)
A group of students from Eliza Van Bibber School watch as veterinarians with the Canadian Animal Assistance Team performing surgery on a pet in Pelly Crossing as part of a special clinic.  (Courtesy/Darcy Marcotte)A group of students from Eliza Van Bibber School watch as veterinarians with the Canadian Animal Assistance Team performing surgery on a pet in Pelly Crossing as part of a special clinic. (Courtesy/Darcy Marcotte)

Lusha was so nervous before the surgery, Tara Roberts held her until the anesthetic kicked in.

Roberts wasn’t expecting to do that when she took Lusha, her one-year-old rescue dog, to the Pelly Crossing pet clinic. She thought she’d hand her dog over at the door and be told to come back at the end of the day.

“They said come right in, and they showed me around,” Roberts said over the phone from her home in Pelly. “(After her surgery) I was able to lay there on the floor with her, pet her, wake her up and then I was the first one she saw when she woke up.”

It was an unexpected perk from the June clinic, put on at the Community Link Building by the Canadian Animal Assistance Team (CAAT) — a non-profit that provides free animal care clinics for cats and dogs in underserved and rural Canadian communities.

The three-day clinic was two-and-a-half years in the making, says Darcy Marcotte, lead community safety officer for the Selkirk First Nation.

A few years ago, loose dogs were identified as one of the top five issues in Pelly. While looking for ways to manage the problem, Marcotte started conversations between CAAT, the community and the chief and council of the Selkirk First Nation.

Together, they identified their primary concern — when female dogs in the community went into heat, male dogs formed packs of up to a dozen. They go into yards. They wreak havoc. More puppies are born than people can care for. There’s concern for kids in the community.

The First Nation applied to CAAT last December. Pelly was accepted as a clinic location earlier this year. In April, CAAT staff visited to put on a dog bite presentation and do a tour of the community. Then in June, CAAT flew 15 veterinarians and techs to the Yukon to run the clinic at no cost to the community.

For their part, Pelly residents volunteered to cook, offered accommodation and assist at the clinic, where Marcotte said interest was high.

People booked appointments. As word spread, there were walk-ins. Students from Eliza Van Bibber School watched surgeries. Owners stayed and asked questions. Youths came and hung out in the building after school. People from other communities called, asking if they could book in (the answer was no — the clinics are community-specific, though Marcotte is happy to give advice to anyone looking to apply to CAAT. Ross River has also been approved in the past) . Mary Vanderkop, the Yukon’s chief veterinary officer, was there, handing out dog tags and collars.

In addition to spaying and neutering, the clinic offered vaccines, microchipping, tooth extractions and nail cutting.

Rena Simon, a Pelly resident, coordinated the event. She says she’d been aware of dog issues in the community for years. It’s one of the reasons she wanted to be involved.

She doesn’t have a dog herself, but she’s adopted a puppy from her mom this summer. When CAAT returns in the fall for a second clinic, she’ll take her new pup for his shots. She said it was impressive to watch the CAAT team handle pets with the precision of an assembly line, all the while talking to owners and reassuring them about the procedures.

Roberts was also impressed. So much so that, after Lusha’s surgery, her other three dogs went in for various procedures, including nail-cutting, neutering and vaccinations.

She figures the clinic saved her thousands of dollars. With four dogs (three of which are large), she would have had to make multiple trips to Whitehorse to get the same services for them. That’s a six-to-eight-hour round-trip, plus the cost of gas, plus potential hotel rooms, plus the vet bills, plus the stress the trip would put on herself and her pets.

“Having this available within the community was by far the awesomest thing,” she says.

Marcotte doesn’t have exact numbers yet, but he figures there were roughly 68 spays and neuters. That’s a third of Pelly’s dog population. And the uptake of vaccines was so high that the clinic ran out of shots.

The bigger win, in his opinion, is what he’s seen in town this week.

“I drive around, and I look around, and dogs are chained up and have their collars on,” he says. “I’m not dodging dogs like potholes on the road.”

He knows one clinic won’t be a quick fix for loose dogs, but he says it’s a piece of the puzzle. It raises awareness and it offers education. Longer-term, that’s the goal.

Contact Amy Kenny at [email protected]


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