Members of the WCVM’s Northern Engagement and Community Outreach program (left to right): Dr. Jordan Woodsworth (DVM, PhD), Katara Chanin (RVT) and Paiten Viklund, the program's administrative support. (credit: Christina Weese)

PetSmart Charities of Canada invests in USask program addressing access to veterinary care

SASKATOON — Over the next four years, the Northern Engagement and Community Outreach (NECO) program at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) will receive $860,000 from PetSmart Charities of Canada in support of efforts addressing access to veterinary care in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, British Columbia and Canada’s northern territories.

Dr. Jordan Woodsworth (left) talks to a pet owner at one of the remote clinics held in northern Saskatchewan. (credit: Brandon White)

“We’re very proud of NECO’s partnership with PetSmart Charities of Canada in addressing urgent access-to-care issues in northern communities throughout our college’s partner regions,” said Dr. Gillian Muir (DVM, PhD), dean of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) at USask. “This funding grant allows the NECO team to work with community stakeholders in gathering fundamental knowledge that will lead to improvements in practices and policies.”

The grant will support the leadership role of Dr. Jordan Woodsworth (DVM, PhD), director of the NECO program at the WCVM. As part of her responsibilities, Woodsworth will develop vital data reports that provide organizations in the college’s partner regions—Saskatchewan, Manitoba, British Columbia and Canada’s territories—with information for improved access to veterinary care practice and policies.

Woodsworth’s team will work with stakeholders to define the current state of veterinary care access in each of the partner regions. The team will also identify opportunities for improvement from both practice and policy standpoints.

“While we know there is a pressing need to build accessible veterinary care in Canada’s remote regions, there is much more to uncover. We’re proud to support this critical research in regions excluded from the veterinary care system altogether,” said Dr. Robyn Jaynes (DVM), director of veterinary affairs at PetSmart Charities of Canada.

“The NECO program at WCVM expects the learnings to result in more equitable access to veterinary care, while also inspiring veterinary learners to do their part to enact change,” said Jaynes. “Sharing the findings nation-wide promises to inform other pet and human serving organizations to evolve the veterinary care landscape in Canada for the better over the next decade.”

Another key aspect of the program is to better understand what graduates of veterinary medicine and veterinary technology training programs are learning about spectrum of care (or contextualized care), culturally safe practices, and skills in community-engaged work.

Spectrum of care involves tailoring veterinary care based on a range of contextual factors that are often unique to each individual case and the client, patient and veterinarian involved in that case.

“Understanding what is currently offered helps us identify opportunities for bolstering these skill sets in graduates from veterinary professional training institutions so we can build a profession with the tools to address the needs of our world in socially conscious and equitable ways,” said Woodsworth. 

Woodsworth worked with community partners to create the college’s NECO program in 2014, initially starting with a small spay-neuter clinic in the tri-community area of La Ronge, Air Ronge and Lac La Ronge Indian Band. NECO now organizes two remote clinics per year in La Ronge, along with an annual spay-neuter and wellness clinic in Île-à-la-Crosse, Sask.

PetSmart Charities of Canada began its partnership with NECO and the veterinary college in 2023 with a $405,000 grant to launch a three-year pilot program for increased outreach and expansion. It supports the work of a registered veterinary technologist (RVT) whose time is focused on NECO-related programs and helping to make connections with new communities.

While the pilot program helps to improve access to care for Saskatchewan communities, this four-year initiative is looking at the issues with a much wider lens spanning three western Canadian provinces and three northern territories.

“The work that we’re doing is really outside of the box. PetSmart Charities of Canada has been so flexible and enthusiastic about our partnership through frequent dialogue and embracing our creativity. They’ve asked us to share our experiences with organizations across Canada and U.S. It’s really exciting to get this type of support,” said Woodsworth.


Media are invited to attend a student presentation about the La Ronge remote clinic (May 2024).
Dr. Jordan Woodsworth, NECO director, and senior WCVM students who worked at the La Ronge remote clinic will be available for interviews after the presentation.
When: 12-1 p.m., Friday, May 17, 2024
Where: Room 2105, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, USask, 52 Campus Drive
Metered parking available in front of WCVM’s south entrance (semi-circle parking loop)


For media inquiries, contact:

Myrna MacDonald
Communications, WCVM
University of Saskatchewan
306-291-9950 |