The Canadian pet charity will provide the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) Northern Engagement and Community Outreach (NECO) program with $405,000 over three years to launch a pilot project. It’s aimed at improving access to veterinary care as well as supporting community education, youth engagement, and community-led problem solving.
“PetSmart Charities of Canada’s contribution is what’s making this all possible and it’s really exciting to have them as an industry partner. This grant speaks to their commitment to making inroads to access to care in Canada,” said Dr. Jordan Woodsworth (DVM, PhD), a veterinarian and director of the college’s NECO program.
Woodsworth describes NECO’s approach—with a registered veterinary technologist leading the delivery of remote veterinary care—as the first of its kind in Canada and appreciates PetSmart Charities of Canada for putting its trust in her team’s “out-of-the-box” initiative.
“We’re excited to be a part of the Northern Engagement and Community Outreach program with the University of Saskatchewan, Western College of Veterinary Medicine,” said Dr. Robyn Jaynes (DVM), director of veterinary affairs at PetSmart Charities of Canada.
“This partnership takes essential veterinary care services into communities that have been excluded from the system. The program addresses barriers associated with geography, as well as the veterinary shortages, that impact so many communities across Canada.
“Leveraging the knowledge and expertise of registered veterinary technologists has the potential to build additional resources and is an essential key to increasing accessible, trusted and affordable care.”
PetSmart Charities of Canada provides funding in support of organizations that advocate and care for the well-being of all pets and their families. The registered charity has granted more than $25 million since its inception in 1999.
Woodsworth worked with community partners to develop NECO in 2014, which began as a small spay-neuter and wellness clinic in the La Ronge tri-community area of La Ronge, Air Ronge and Lac La Ronge Indian Band.
NECO now offers various services including spay-neuter procedures, vaccinations, deworming, and preventive care through its remote clinics. Organizers work with community partners to hold two remote clinics in the tri-community area of La Ronge each year. In 2021, the NECO team introduced an additional clinic that is offered every fall in Île à la Crosse, a community in northwestern Saskatchewan.
Woodsworth said that PetSmart Charities of Canada’s support will allow NECO team members to develop a more active presence in a wider range of regions, with a focus on tailoring the program to each community’s specific needs.
The new funding has allowed the WCVM to hire Katara Chanin, a registered veterinary technologist. Chanin has been a regular volunteer at NECO’s remote clinics and is excited to play a greater role in the program’s development.
“One of the first steps in this next phase of NECO is starting a needs assessment plan,” said Chanin. “We’ve been talking with communities and gaining an understanding of their main concerns, and that will flow into the next phase of determining education needs.”
The next NECO-led event is a remote clinic in the tri-community area of La Ronge from Aug. 17-20. Organizers have already secured 60 wellness appointments and 80 spay-neuter surgery appointments in advance of the clinic.
“We know that there’s a major need for the type of engagement that we offer, and so we’re hoping that we can continue to grow and have a positive impact on as many communities as possible,” said Chanin.