Over two hundred cats and dogs from Bella Coola were spayed and neutered over a four-day period by volunteers from the Canadian Animal Assistance Team (CAAT) this past week.
With headquarters in Vancouver and in Ontario, CAAT members live and work across Canada. Their primary focus is on running Animal Health Care Projects in low-income communities with limited or no access to veterinary services for their animals. This trip saw 23 CAAT volunteers in the community – four vets with their support staff of veterinary and surgery technicians – working 13 to 16 hour days to get all of the animals taken care of.
“The response has blown my mind,” said community organizer Rita Svisdahl. “This clinic has been eight years in the making and I’m just amazed.”
The temporary clinic was set up in the maintenance building at Acwsalcta School and check-in’s for animals, which began early, were often maxed out by 10:30am.
“We call these trips our “spaycations,” said volunteer and vet tech Trina Legg. “Everyone here is a volunteer and some come from across the country on their own time to make these clinics happen.”
Approximately 35 percent of Canadian households have a dog, while 38 percent have a cat. While there are no solid numbers for the community of Bella Coola, local organizers believe the local figure is higher.
Unfortunately, Bella Coola has been without regular veterinary services for the past several years and, by the sheer numbers of people turning up with their pets, its absence has been keenly felt.
“From the moment the Canadian Animal Assistance Team arrived, they brought a positive energy, dedication, and high level of teamwork. I hold my hands up to every member of this 100 percent volunteer team. They are literally an answer to prayers,” said organizer Desiree Danielson. “It has been incredible to see the community response. So many pet parents have come in and waited patiently all day; the waited to register, then for their initial exam, then stood by and witnessed the surgery, and then cuddled their animals like babies in recovery.”
CAAT volunteers were also very welcoming to the community, hosting school visits and taking on young volunteers who showed interest.
“I so appreciate CAAT’s transparency. The team encourages you to watch and ask questions throughout the process. I think the CAAT clinic visit has been a whole education in itself, and I’m so thankful that children and families could have this experience together,” said Danielson.
One of these young volunteers, eight-year old Vincent King, spent the majority of two days at the clinic in a hands-on experience.
“I’ve always wanted to be a vet,” he shared. “I’m here studying how to do surgeries.”
CAAT volunteers also enjoyed their experience.
“I love it here, the people have been so welcoming,” said volunteer Debra Kosituk. “This is my eleventh trip with the organization and by far my favourite so far.”