No way to treat a dog

Nunavut is home to thousands of dogs – but not a single vet

No way to treat a dog

When Carla Baker’s dog got sick a few years ago, she knew it was serious. Atuli, a 14-year-old husky, was suffering from bloat, a painful contusion of the gut, which, if left untreated, can cause the stomach to rupture. So Baker, who was living in Nunavut, where there are no veterinarians, called an animal hospital in Ottawa. But when the vet learned it would take days—not hours—for Atuli to reach an animal hospital, “her tone changed,” Baker recalls. “She told me that I had to put him down immediately.” Baker, now 29, became hysterical. “I didn’t want him to be shot,” she says. “But it had to be done.”

Baker is not alone. Despite the fact that Nunavut has a staggering concentration of dogs—a 2007 survey found that in Iqaluit, there were nearly half as many canines as the city’s 7,000 people—there is not a single veterinarian. The lack of access to sterilization has led to overpopulation, and euthanasia (by gun) is seen as a necessary evil to control numbers and disease. Common illnesses, easily preventable with vaccination, often run rampant. In Iqaluit, a recent outbreak of canine parvovirus, which leads to vomiting, diarrhea and possibly death, prompted council to pass an emergency measure: unclaimed strays could be destroyed by bylaw officers after 12 hours, rather than the standard 72. Says Janine Budgell, who runs the territory’s only humane society, in Iqaluit, “People don’t know how under-resourced we are, and how primitive the measures [that are used].”

Dogs have long been central to life in the Canadian North. As Paul Quassa, an Inuit politician, explains, “Husky dogs have always been our lifeline.” Quassa says disease and overpopulation became an issue with the introduction of other breeds from the south. “Our concept has always been dogs are meant to be outside, working dogs,” he says. “But mixed breeds, they’re not made as such.”

Despite the apparent need, setting up a veterinary practice in Nunavut is a difficult proposition. On top of an absence of infrastructure and resources, poverty means that many residents could not afford such services. (In Iqaluit, municipal bylaw officer Doug Vincent says strays often go unclaimed because their owners can’t pay the fine.) As Baker, who is enrolled in the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, points out, establishing a single clinic “does not help all the other people in the communities. You’d have to have some travelling capabilities.”

According to Budgell, who established the Iqaluit humane society in 2007, there are more pressing concerns. The territory still lacks specific legislation to protect animals from abuse and neglect, and Budgell says that “the territory needs to step up.” (She says a petition submitted last year has been ignored.) The Iqaluit humane society brings vets in twice a year to conduct sterilization and vaccination campaigns, and the Canadian Animal Assistance Team, among other groups, sends vets to other areas. But, says Quassa, it will take more than the odd visit.

If there were a vet in town, he says, “People would be more aware. They would be conscious of the fact that dogs also need doctors to take care of them.”




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No way to treat a dog

  1. There is nothing wrong with shooting a dog in the head with a gun if you're going to kill it (when its old and sick or severly injured). A bullet is a hell of a lot cheaper, and less stressful for the dog, than a trip to the vet.

    I doubt people in Nunavut have become as confused as us southerners about the place of a dog in the home, so I doubt they are stupid enough to spend hundreds of dollars a year to keep their dogs "healthy". Veterinary practice is one of the biggest rackets going.

    • hear hear!

    • There's nothing wrong with keeping your dog healthy. When a person takes a dog into his or her home as a pet he or she is doing so without the dog's consent or knowledge. Effectively, that person is cutting it off from living through natural means because that person wants it as a pet. It means the dog can no longer fend for itself or take care of itself.
      As such, the OWNER becomes the means through which the dog survives. Therefore, the OWNER has an obligation to ensure that the dog lives a reasonably good and proper life.

  2. Tal: Hear hear!

  3. I think that JimD is a very ignorant person to assume that vet clinics are "rackets"…..if you can't afford to take care of your pets then you shouldn't have them! We are lucky to have "our" med bills taken care of by the government. I wish all people could have pet insurance. People know how expensive animals can be. so why do they get them??? "oh he's soooo cute, soo cuddly. then once the animal gets sick…tossed to one side like garbage. Then they are replaced with another. Perhaps JimD when you get old or sick a bullet should be put to your head instead of treatment….hows that???. By the way this is my sister mentioned in this article. She has devoted her life to our ceatures. Animals have and will always be more decent then any human who walks this earth. You have proven this with your statement.

  4. As a veterinarian licensed in another Canadian jurisdiction, I would endeavour to offer my services free of charge in Canada's north.
    However, I find that the cost of airline travel to these northern communities to be discouraging, as I simply could not afford to fly to a a remote Nunavut community, including the Capital Iqaluit. And then there are supplies, and where do I set up shop.
    Lastly, I would require a Nunavut Veterinary License, as one is a professional and the Government of Nunavut is no different than any other government in their practice of licensing professionals who desire to offer their services in Nunavut, albeit free. Yet I find that, this too, discourages a professional to step up to the plate and pay $200.00 for licensure as well as garner all the reference letters etc.,, plus air fare (ie: $4,000.00 to $5,000.00), plus accomodation costs, plus equipment/medical supply costs, and travel to Iqaluit or Pond Inlet. Arctic Bay, Cape Dorset etc., and stay there for a couple of weeks and offer Free Veterinary Services. As, I said, I would like to, but I cannot afford to !

  5. Oh what a sad story! I cannot believe there is not one Vet willing to provide a service for this community. Even our human general doctors could be in an emergency useful in treating our beloved canines. I personally have been in a situation where treatment was not available. My then, great Dane was treated at the local hospital for humans. This is true and not just a comment for reaction.

  6. I think there should be some vets in Nunavut. This is really no way to treat a dog. They deserve medicines when they are sick.
    Natural supplement for dogs

  7. A solution would be that the local authorities would facilitate the opening for a veterinary center, and to try to sensitize the population that the dogs beside the love, care, <a rel="follow" href="http://www.doggievogue.com/category-info/dog-collars-info">dog collars, dog toys, they need a good veterinary assistance, with good specialists. A healthy, nice looking dog can be a good friend.

  8. nice article

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