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Visiting services by ASNTF valuable

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By Sam Laskaris Sweetgrass Writer CALGARY







Money and time are preventing officials with the Alberta Spay Neuter Task Force from doing even more work in First Nation communities across the province.

Since 2008, the group has travelled to various Aboriginal communities where they have worked with residents to control their pet overpopulations.

Besides spaying or neutering cats and dogs, officials with the ASNTF can vaccinate the animals and treat them for external or internal parasites or tattoo them.

 They can also arrange to take away unwanted or stray animals and place them in rescue homes.

“It’s been extremely successful,” ASNTF president Nancy Larsen said of her group’s work in Aboriginal communities. “Unfortunately, we’re turning down new communities now.”

Larsen said it costs between $10,000-$15,000 each time the ASNTF ventures into a First Nation location to perform its work.

“The medications alone are $6,000,” she said.

Vehicles have to be rented to get the volunteers to the various communities and then accommodations provided.
“We never expected this response,” Larsen said. “When we go into a community they’re lined up.”

It takes a mammoth co-ordinated effort to get to each First Nation community. Each event requires a clinic co-ordinator, clinic manager, up to a dozen veterinarians, eight animal health technicians and several dozen volunteers.

The ASNTF was able to start working inside First Nation communities in 2008 when the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association allowed groups to run a temporary veterinary facility. ASNTF officials had lobbied for this as it was difficult for clinics to handle high volumes of work and it was also burdensome to get a large amount of animals to clinics.

The first time the ASNTF travelled to an Aboriginal community was in September of 2008. Officials went to the Blood Tribe First Nation where they sterilized 63 animals and took out 78 unwanted animals.

That was the only clinic held in 2008.

The ASNTF returned to the Blood Tribe in 2009 for two additional clinics. Two other clinics were held in 2010, one on the Blood Tribe and the other in the Siksika First Nation.

As for 2011, a total of six clinics were staged. There were two visits each to the Siksika and the Piikani First Nations, and single visits to the Bigstone Cree First Nation and Hobbema.

The Hobbema event, which was held at the end of October, was the busiest one to date. A total of 182 animals were sterilized.  Another 198 were deemed unwanted and hooked up with rescue homes.

The ASNTF works closely with the Calgary Humane Society, which provides vets and animal health technicians that work the clinics in the Aboriginal communities.

The Calgary Humane Society also lends surgical equipment to the ASNTF.  Larsen said her organization is presently fundraising to purchase its own equipment.
Larsen expects the first clinic of 2012 in an Aboriginal community will be held in April. The site, however, has yet to be determined.