Dog over-population creates serious problems for any community. The more dogs, the greater the health risk for humans. Some common dog parasites such as giardia (Beaver Fever) and roundworm are transferable to people. Other diseases such as parvovirus and distemper are a danger to the dogs. Furthermore, when strays pack they present a serious threat to wildlife, livestock and domesticated animals.
In Mount Currie, this issue is being addressed through a pilot project designed to remove the cost barrier of spaying or neutering pets. Developed in conjunction with WAG, the program concludes this Sunday and will most likely meet its target of spaying or neutering 80 dogs.
Volunteers from Mount Currie have joined forces with area veterinarians to implement the program over a period of four consecutive Fridays. And its been a real community effort. Pemberton Fire Chief Russell Mark has given up the halls garage to act as a kennel for the dogs awaiting surgery, while the Pemberton Valley Supermarket and Wildwood Restaurant have donated lunch for the volunteers.
"Were doing 20 surgeries in an eight-hour period," said Dr. David Lane of Coast Mountain Veterinary Clinic. "It takes six or seven volunteers to keep things moving. Theyre out there gathering the dogs, discharging the animals and explaining post-operative care to the owners."
Meanwhile in the operating room, surgical instruments are being re-sterilized, surgery drapes exchanged and staff being changed into new gowns and gloves.
"Its like watching old episodes of M*A*S*H*," said Dr. Lane.
Joking aside, Dr. Lane and colleagues Dr. Meghan Russell, Dr. Melanie Armstrong and Dr. Carla Wilke believe this is a valuable and important first step in managing the communitys canine over-population.
"Its the first time weve tried this up here, but were using models that have worked in other communities," said Dr. Lane.
As for follow-up to the effectiveness of the project, Dr. Lane believes that it will be mostly anecdotal.
"This project has taken a lot of resources and it needs to be replicated for a few years," said Sheldon Tetreault, senior administrator with the Mount Currie Band. "We need to get a hold of the dogs on the street and increase the number of spays and neuters."
Tetreault said that the strategy for how to reach strays will be developed over the coming months, but he does say that thinking has changed on how to deal with the issue.
"In the past, UBC has come out here for a dog scoop to use the dogs in experiments," he says. "Problem dogs are put down we shoot them. WAG has taken an exception to this. We said, Help us find an alternative. Give us the opportunity."
Tetreault is confident that the success of this pilot project will mark a new beginning for a relationship that has been at times contentious.
While the administrator points to the high cost of spaying and neutering dogs as being a deterrent to many pet owners, he also cites cultural barriers.
"We have to get people to reconsider what is proper dog treatment."