Ensuring pets in Saskatchewan’s more remote communities have access to veterinary care is the driving force behind a new round of funding from PetSmart Charities of Canada.
The non-profit organization will provide $405,000 over three years to help launch the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) Northern Engagement and Community Outreach (NECO) program, a pilot project aimed at improving access to veterinary care, as well as supporting community education, youth engagement, and community-led problem solving.
“This partnership takes essential veterinary care services into communities that have been excluded from the system,” explains Robyn Jaynes, DVM, director of veterinary affairs at PetSmart Charities of Canada. “The program addresses barriers associated with geography, as well as the veterinary shortages, that impact so many communities across Canada.”
NECO was first launched in 2014 as a small spay-neuter and wellness clinic in the La Ronge, Sask., tri-community area of La Ronge, Air Ronge, and Lac La Ronge Indian Band, WCVM reports. It now offers various services including spay-neuter procedures, vaccinations, deworming, and preventive care through its remote clinics.
The program, which will see a registered veterinary technologist leading the delivery of remote veterinary care, is a first of its kind in Canada, WCVM says. PetSmart Charities of Canada’s support will allow NECO team members to develop a more active presence in a wider range of regions, with a focus on tailoring the program to each community’s specific needs.
Additionally, the funding has allowed the college to hire Katara Chanin, a registered veterinary technologist who is a regular volunteer at the program’s remote clinics.
“Leveraging the knowledge and expertise of registered veterinary technologists has the potential to build additional resources and is an essential key to increasing accessible, trusted, and affordable care,” Dr. Jaynes says.
“One of the first steps in this next phase of NECO is starting a needs assessment plan,” Chanin adds. “We’ve been talking with communities and gaining an understanding of their main concerns, and that will flow into the next phase of determining education needs.”
The next NECO-led event will be a remote clinic in the tri-community area, scheduled to take place Aug. 17 to 20. Ahead of the event, organizers have secured 60 wellness appointments and 80 spay-neuter surgery appointments, according to WCVM.
“We know there’s a major need for the type of engagement we offer, and so we’re hoping that we can continue to grow and have a positive impact on as many communities as possible,” Chanin says.
Since its inception in 1999, PetSmart Charities of Canada has bestowed grants totalling more than $25 million to pet-focused organizations and initiatives across the country.
“PetSmart Charities of Canada’s contribution is what’s making this all possible and it’s really exciting to have them as an industry partner,” says NECO’s director of care, Jordan Woodsworth, DVM, PhD. “This grant speaks to [the group’s] commitment to making inroads to access to care in Canada.”