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Volunteers have a fix for stray dog problem

A temporary spay and neuter clinic for dogs is being held in Norway House in April.

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A temporary spay and neuter clinic for dogs is being held in Norway House in April. (SUPPLIED PHOTO)

TWO veterinarians, 10 volunteers, 60 dogs and just two days.

This is the entourage, the goal and the time frame for the first Get Fixed Manitoba, a program in which volunteers will set up temporary spay and neuter clinics in remote communities in Manitoba that don't have access to veterinary care.

The first clinic will be held in Norway House in April, when volunteers will set up a temporary clinic at the arena. Veterinarians Dr. Alison Litchfield of the Dakota Veterinary Hospital and Dr. Manjit Sra of the Southglen Veterinary Hospital will volunteer their time to perform the surgeries on 60 to 80 dogs.

Owners will be asked to pay a subsidized rate of $50 to have their dogs spayed or neutered, as sponsors and donations will cover some costs.

Each dog will also be vaccinated against rabies and parvo/distemper and given an identification tattoo.

Rebecca Nordquist, executive director of Manitoba Mutts, said "overpopulation is at a crisis level," as it has been estimated Manitoba's stray dog population is 10,000.

Children in those communities are often in danger of being attacked or bitten by stray dogs that form packs. Homeless dogs are often freezing to death or suffering from starvation or diseases.

"It's a runaway train that's easy to start and extremely complicated to stop. The issue is a hot topic politically," Nordquist said in a statement. "Snap judgments and oversimplified solutions don't help solve the problem we have. Communities that sign up for this program are aware they need help. They deserve respect for taking the right steps."

Some northern communities have resorted at times to shooting dogs in large numbers, called culls. These mass dog shoots have produced only short-term results and have resulted in pain and suffering for the animals, as remaining dogs and new dogs brought into the community continue to reproduce unabated.

"After seeing so many animals and the effects of overpopulation, especially in our province, this is a small start but every bit makes a difference," said Litchfield, who will volunteer for the first time at a remote clinic. "I've worked with (Manitoba) Mutts and they would come into our clinic with some of the worst scenarios of what happens. I've always been interested in rescue medicine and this is a chance to make a difference for these animals and the communities."

Mallory Fleming, the program manager of Get Fixed Manitoba and assistant director of Manitoba Mutts, said the program's goal for its first year is to spay and neuter 250 dogs across Manitoba. If even half of those are female dogs that might have had litters of six puppies, the program's pilot year could prevent the births of about 750 unwanted dogs.

"In three years, one rescue alone, we've re-homed over 2,000 dogs. There's over 35 rescues in the province, so I don't know how many dogs have been re-homed from all of them in a year," Fleming said, as Manitoba Mutts celebrated its third year of operation last month. "Winnipeg has a bylaw of three (dogs per home) and people are getting up to two and three dogs. People are capping out on dog ownership. The problem can't continue. We need a permanent solution to dog overpopulation."

Stray dogs cannot be the target of this clinic since the after care involved with surgery on dogs requires owners to look after for the animals and for the incisions to be kept dry during the healing process.

Fleming said she hopes to be in contact with other communities in the coming weeks to arrange clinics in other remote locations.

For information or to make a donation to the project, email getfixed@manitobamutts.org or go to www.manitobamutts.org.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

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