It’s that time of the year, when the snow has melted and the pets get frisky. What better way to show that you love them and your community than by getting them spayed or neutered?

The Northern Dogs Program is a partnership between the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and seven of the nine Cree communities.

The free program began four years ago when both organizations were invited into the communities to help with the dog overpopulation issue.

“There are too many pets, not enough homes,” said IFAW Program Manager Jan Hannah. “Ownership of pets is different according to what area you live in. But if every dog had a home, you wouldn’t have roaming dogs, you wouldn’t have packing of dogs or neglected dogs. To me, it comes down to overpopulation.”

The project is fully funded by donations, she added. “Although in Mistissini last year they collected $250 to pay for their vaccines. That was great.”

Hannah said the cost to spay or neuter your pet can run from $200 for a male and $250 for a female. Although those costs are much higher when flights and other northern expenses are factored in. Last year’s free clinics in Eeyou Istchee cost IFAW $30,000.

Dogs traveling in packs within the communities have become an epidemic and these clinics are seen as a way to combat the problem. As recently as a few months ago, free-roaming dogs in one of the communities mauled a little boy.

The program not only provides no-cost spaying and neutering of dogs and cats, but also general care and examination, vaccinations (e.g., rabies and parvo), assistance in developing humane dog control programs and overall public education.

They work closely with the public safety officers in each community, taking their lead from community members to help address specific local concerns. Phone calls from community members about the program as well as the number of people who come out to the clinics continue to grow each year.

Last year a total of 244 dogs were checked or vaccinated in the seven communities. More than 100 canines were spayed or neutered.

Spaying or neutering is a simple operation performed by the veterinarian on site at the clinic. It improves the health of the dogs and minimizes problems, such as aggression and roaming in males, certain cancers and it eliminates the reproductive cycle in females.

“This is a problem across Canada,” said Hannah. “We have the same problem down in the south except we have animal shelters and animal control officers that are constantly picking up dogs. It’s not more of a problem in the north, it’s just that we have a way to deal with them and they don’t right now.”

The Northern Dogs Program is looking for more participation this year and more help. Increased community involvement and support is needed to continue this important service, according to IFAW.

One veterinarian, along with two vet techs and supporting staff will start their visits to Eeyou Istchee on June third in Mistissini. Check the schedule below for your community.

Mistissini: June 3-5

Oujé-Bougoumou: June 6-7

Waswanipi: June 8-9

Chisasibi: June 23-25

Eastmain: June 26-27

Nemaska: June 28-29

Waskaganish: June 30-July 2