Female dogs in Norway House, Man., are getting birth control implants as part of an innovative mission to deal with the stray dog population in the northern community.
The local animal rescue has teamed up with a veterinarian from southern Manitoba to set up a mobile clinic where tiny birth control chips are implanted in female dogs, free of charge.
It's estimated that 4,000 dogs — many of them strays — roam around Norway House, located about 800 kilometres north of Winnipeg.
With little to no access to veterinary care, including spaying and neutering services, the number of dogs in the community just keeps multiplying.
"Their life can be pretty tough," said Debra Vanderkerkhove, who heads up the Norway House animal rescue.
The dog population has been an issue for people in Norway House, who say they want it to be brought under control for the health of the dogs as well as for public safety.
Vanderkerkhove said seeing so many stray dogs, particularly female strays, moved her to start the project.
"Being a female stray dog, it is like being raped over and over again," she said.
So Vanderkerkhove teamed up with Carla Loewen, a veterinarian from Virden, Man., to raise $10,000 to buy slow-release canine birth control chips.
Can prevent pregnancy for 2 years
The tiny chips are injected between a dog's shoulder blades with a syringe, in a procedure that takes less than 60 seconds per dog.
When implanted, the chips prevent dogs from going into heat for up to two years.
Loewen noted that since dogs can have about two or three litters a year, the team hopes the implants will prevent hundreds of births over the next couple years.
Word of the project spread quickly in Norway House, with local volunteers helping the team round up female strays and pet owners bringing in their own dogs.
"It was fast," said Patricia McLeod, who brought in her dog Candy for an implant.
"I'm happy, she's happy. I think it's a good idea."
The team behind the project says while spaying and neutering dogs is still the gold standard in population control, birth control implants can help neutralize the numbers quickly.
The chips cost about $90 each, which Vanderkerkhove and Loewen said is cheaper than spaying and neutering dogs at a cost of about $200 to $300.
Implanting the chips is also much less invasive, they said, noting that the average life span of stray dogs in the community is about two to three years.