IN ONE SHORT YEAR, 96 UNWANTED ANIMALS HAVE FOUND LOVING HOMES, AND 110 DOGS AND 68 CATS HAVE BEEN STERILIZED.
Field Notes from Bella Coola By Josey Kitson
met Rita in May of this year at a WSPAfunded clinic, which was part of a project being run by our incredible member society, Big Heart Rescue. Rita is a resident, so touched by the project that she has become a volunteer, who was eager to tell me about her experiences. “We played Santa for all the critters,” she recalls with a grin. She was referring to Christmas 2009, when many people were struggling to provide for members of their family, including their animals. Big Heart sent approximately 800 pounds of pet food, which Rita and community volunteers Ellie Archer and Krista Gunderson helped to distribute. Until last year, she and the other residents of Bella Coola had little access to veterinary care – the closest vet is seven hours away,
BELLA COOLA, A PICTURESQUE FIRST NATIONS COMMUNITY NESTLED INLAND FROM BRITISH COLUMBIA’S RAIN COAST, IS HOME TO RITA SVISDAHL, HER FAMILY, AND THEIR TWO DOGS PIPPY AND SHADOW.
a long trip that is just not financially possible for many residents. In 2009, WSPA provided the funds for Big Heart Rescue to begin helping Bella Coola’s animals, and in turn helping their families. Big Heart’s volunteers rolled out a plan to advise the community on how to manage the dog population and ensure that all of the animals had access to veterinary care.
Pippy being treated by Dr. Ben and Yvonne (tech) under the watchful eye of Rita
According to Rita there have been big changes in the community since Big Heart arrived. She has noticed two very important things: there are less dogs packing – Rita thinks it has a lot to do with the dog food Big Heart has provided – and there is a heightened awareness about responsible pet ownership. In her words “people are starting to care”. In one short year, 96 unwanted animals have found loving homes, and 110 dogs and 68 cats have been sterilized.
Josey Kitson oversees WSPA Canada’s First Nations Dogs Project. She travelled to Bella Coola in May 2010 to see this model project in action and take part in an animal health clinic that WSPA funded.