More than a dozen dogs and cats from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation in Ontario's far north are on their way to their new, southern Ontario forever homes after being transported to Thunder Bay on Tuesday.

The animals were transported to the city by North Star Air and the Ontario SPCA by plane, and then loaded into a van for the drive to a Peterborough, Ont. shelter, where they'll be made available for adoption.

"I'm surprised that they get through Thunder Bay, because a lot of people are looking at them and saying 'oh, I like that one, I like that one,'" said Judy Decicco, chair of the Ontario SPCA's northern animal services committee.

"And they're very well socialized," she said. "They're great dogs, and they make wonderful pets."

Health and safety concerns

Lack of access to veterinary care, Decicco said, results in large populations of dogs and cats in some northern communities. That, in turn, can cause health issues.

"These are free-roaming dogs," she said. "They have a tendency to pack up, and when that happens, then there is a health and safety issue with children and adults."

For the Ontario SPCA's part, the communities approach them for assistance. Unowned animals are transferred out of the community, and then a spay and neuter clinic is held.

Tuesday's flight also included a group of veterinarians who had conducted one of those clinics in Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, which is also known as Big Trout Lake.

Decicco said the Ontario SPCA will also provide support and resources for communities who wish to take further steps, like limiting the number of pets a resident can own, or spaying and neutering pets in the community.

Donation to Ontario SPCA

North Star Air has been working with various animal rescue organizations for two years, company spokesman John Beardy said.

Not only have North Star Air craft transported more than 140 animals out of northern communities, but they've also shuttled veterinarians to the communities for spay and neuter clinics.

And they've provided financial support — on Tuesday, for example, the company donated more than $30,000 to the Ontario SPCA.

"It's just a way for us to build a relationship with our communities, as well as the organizations," Beardy said. "They're our customers, and this is just one way of giving back to the communities for what they do for us."