Focus On First Nations

If there are stray dogs everywhere, why does hart focus on First Nations communities?


The stray dog issue is one of the most visible animal welfare issues.  It is a global problem with an estimated 600 million stray dogs in the world.  The overpopulation problem, regardless of the location, perpetuates itself with every heat cycle. 

When hart was in its formation stages, we learned about the volume of stray and abandoned dogs in the Hobbema area.  We also learned that while there were numerous concerned citizens who wished to help, there were no formal supports in place to accomplish this.  At the time, there were few rescue organizations in the greater Edmonton area and no group concentrated on the Hobbema area.  It broke our hearts that there were so many dogs without shelter, without food and without care.  It was even more heartbreaking that every heat cycle there were more dogs born into the overpopulation problem.

In any community, managing stray dogs presents a problem.  There are serious animal welfare implications, public health issues, societal and economic costs.  The lack of options leads almost all communities faced with this problem to explore methods to limit the stray dog population, most often these actions are dog culls.  We believe there is a better way. 

This is how and why we chose Hobbema as our target rescue community.  For those of you who are not familiar, Hobbema is primarily a First Nation community that serves four reserves of Cree bands and is located approximately 70 kilometers south of Edmonton.  The four reserves are collectively known as the "four nations" which are party to Treaty Six.  The four nations that hart focuses on are Louis Bull Tribe, Samson Cree Nation, Ermineskin Cree Nation and the Montana First Nation.  Because these four communities are situated beside one another, the dogs naturally flow through the communities.  The dogs do not know the boundaries of one community to the next. 

Because we believed there was a better way, we set to work demonstrating that a humane and comprehensive approach can work to ease the overpopulation problem and to offer a safer and healthier life for strays and for community members.  We had a vision for a sustainable population management strategy that went hand-in-hand with capacity building in the communities.  This is a big vision for a little group. 

During our formation, we had wonderful opportunities to meet with elders, residents and band leaders to learn their thoughts, understand their goals and appreciate their limitations.  Through these meetings we realized that empowering the community through education, resources and supports was going to make the difference for future generations of humans and dogs.  We have worked diligently through our nine years to build strong relationships with Field Volunteers.  These volunteers live and work in our target rescue communities and have taken on the critical role of monitoring the dog population, identifying at risk dogs, coordinating the rescue and transfer of dogs based on foster vacancy, overseeing the distribution of food for community dogs, educating about responsible pet ownership and spreading awareness about spay/neuter programs. 

While there are no quick and easy solutions for the stray dog problem, by investing energy and effort into humane programs, these collective efforts will make a difference in our focus communities.  

Written by hart at 00:00
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