New Solution for Spays in Canada's First Nations
Dogs With No Names program attempts to control stray population.
Judith Samson-French, a veterinarian of the Banded Peak Veterinary Hospital picked up on a mysterious trend not long after she opened the clinic in 1999 in Calgary, in the Alberta foothills of Canada.
"There was just an outflow of dogs stranded on the highways. People would pick them up and bring them to me and say, 'Here's another dog, we don't have a name for it,'" Samson-French said. "Then it became my problem to take the porcupine quills out of the dog or to treat it."
Samson-French thought the curiously high number of unaccounted for strays could be linked to the nearby First Nations, home to indigenous peoples of Canada. Over a period of time, Samson-French gained permission to enter two First Nations, where dogs have traditionally played important roles, assisting in work, hunting and companionship, according to the World Society for the Protection of Animals.
But as the WSPA notes, overpopulation and abandonment are now problems across First Nations in Canada. And the First Nations' typically remote location can make it challenging to access veterinary care -- including spay and neuter services.
So Samson-French and Lori Rogers, a senior animal health technologist at the Calgary Zoo, noting this trend in the First Nations -- Tsuu T'ima and Siksika -- and they considered the best options to reduce the population of stray dogs, whose lives are typically short and difficult.
Dogs With No Names: an ambitious pilot program in which they implant contraceptive chips into female dogs.
So far, Samson-French and Rogers have placed the chips into about 200 young female dogs, preventing the unwanted births of an approximate 100,000 puppies.
It's the first time Samson-French knows of such contraceptive chips -- as small as a microchip, and costing about $54 -- being used on a domesticated dog stray population, she says.
"It means that this female then has a much better life than she would have otherwise, because if and when she does give birth she is on her own," explained Samson-French. "It is not like she a wolf and the rest of the pack will help. She may not have access to water or other resources and may have to eat snow just to survive."
Implanting a contraceptive chip, as opposed to spaying or neutering the dogs, has certain benefits for this particular stray population, says Samson-French, though they could also be similarly used on other stray communities.
First, the chips only last for about a year-and-a-half -- though Samson-French says that she hopes in a few years, the scientific technology will allow for a chip that will last three years, allowing the team to bypass putting a chip in the same dog two times. Still, the chip's short duration was a key factor to help convince some people on the First Nations to implant the chips in the dogs in the first place, because some people were hesitant to permanently alter the dogs' natural reproductive state.
Second, it's very difficult to catch the dogs, who are generally very afraid of people and not domesticated. Samson-French herself plays the role of dogcatcher -- warming up to the dogs through the regular loads of food that she and her supporting team regularly bring to the First Nations. Since the chips can be inserted very quickly through an injection, much like a microchip, it isn't an involved, surgical procedure that could cause the dogs to become very stressed in confined kennels during the before and after process.
Samson-French estimates that in the summertime, there are an average of 1,000,000 stray dogs on First Nations in Canada, though that number drops during the winter, as the dogs cannot survive the harsh cold.
Since the program started, Samson-French says she has seen a decrease in the number of stray dogs, likely born on First Nations, people bring her from off the highway.
Dogs With No Names plans to scale up its work in the months to come and will likely be bolstered by the profits from the book, "Dogs with No Names" Samson-French will release later this fall, first in hardcopy and then as an E-book.
For more information, visit DogsWithNoNames.com.
Photo Courtesy of Dogs With No Names.
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