A non-profit group is working with First Nations communities in northern BC to reduce the number of stray dogs in rural areas, and is now pushing to expand efforts across the province.
Fur Pet’s Sake was created in October 2018 after founding member Angela McLaren had already been working with communities in animal management for more than 10 years through preventative programs, such as vaccination, spay and neutering.
In a phone interview with Daily Hive Vancouver, McLaren said when she started to assess the stray dog situation in First Nations communities, there was “major overpopulation issues that weren’t being addressed and that there was a gap that we needed to fill.”
A reason why Indigenous communities are seeing dog overpopulation challenges is because they are remote with little to no veterinary care, McLaren said, adding that animal care can also be costly for a lot of people.
When dogs aren’t spayed or neutered it creates a multiplier overpopulation problem: As the animals breed, litters of unwanted puppies will go on to have babies as well. McLaren says the problems extend into other arenas as well: “Dogs tend to pack up, and when they pack up you start seeing behavioural issues,” McLaren said.
McLaren said Fur Pet’s Sake approaches each First Nation community with a 5-year plan: creating bylaws for a long-term solution, setting up spay and neuter clinics, wellness clinics to treat injuries, rescue organizations, and programs designed to educate people about proper dog ownership.
The biggest challenge in the First Nations communities is dog bites, which has resulted in children being killed, McLaren said.
For example, when a female goes into heat “it’s a frenzy” because the males want to mate and “it’s survival of the fittest,”and children often get in the middle of those scenarios.
Preventing anyone from being “killed by packs of dogs” is a big reason McLaren said she wanted to get involved.
“So we really go in there with a collective solution,” McLaren said, “we tackle the challenges from all angles so that we prevent any kind of tragedy happening in those communities.”
McLaren said how Fur Pet’s Sake works, is it first assesses each community to find out what the needs are, creates the long-term plan, and then connects clinics and businesses with the communities to do the rescue, adoption, wellness, spay and neutering programs on the ground in one area — adding no First Nations communities are charged.
McLaren said the group creates new bylaws for communities and revamps existing bylaws, which she said can be outdated “and do not include things like animal cruelty,” adding a big focus is ending dog culling by giving alternative solutions.
“Once they’ve got a bylaw, they have something to work off, so they can go back to their community and say ‘hey, you know we do have rules, you can only have three dogs, they have to be spayed and neutered, they have to be up to date on their vaccines,’ it depends on what the community wants,” McLaren said.
However, Fur Pet’s Sake does make strong recommendations, such as “if you bring in a new dog to the community it needs to be fixed, we help define what ‘stray’ means and what ‘own’ means and if it’s a stray we know we can have it removed,” she said.
One challenge that Fur Pet’s Sake faces is that there are only a small amount of spay and neuter groups in BC, McLaren said, so it can take up to a year for a clinic to make its way to a community.
“Right now we’re getting our feet wet,” McLaren said, “trying to figure out how we can successfully roll it out provincially without putting too much strain on the organizations that are working closely with us.”
So the focus right now is spreading the word about Fur Pet’s Sake, McLaren said, adding volunteers are always needed.