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Regional veterinary clinic taking shape for northern Quebec town

Efforts to have a regional veterinary clinic located in the Cree community of Chisasibi have moved into high gear after a mould problem forced the closure of the community's current animal rescue shelter.

Chisasibi Animal Rescue shelter forced to relocate because of mould

Lee-Ann Angatookaluk is providing some animal services in the Cree community of Chisasibi after its animal shelter was forced out of its current location due to mould. Efforts are underway to open a permanent regional veterinary clinic in Chisasibi to serve the Cree communities. (CBC North/Christopher Herodier)

Efforts to have a regional veterinary clinic located in the Cree community of Chisasibi have moved into high gear after a mould problem forced the closure of the community's current animal rescue shelter.

"It is not safe anymore to work there or to foster animals," said Catherine Rhéaume-Provost, co-ordinator of the Chisasibi Animal Rescue shelter, located in the largest of the Cree communities, more than 1,400 kilometres north of Montreal.

The Chisasibi Animal Rescue shelter was shut down at the end of October after extensive mould was found. The team has relocated to small offices in the Mitchuap building in downtown Chisasibi, a community of more than 5,000 people.

It is important because people have to take care of their dogs.- Lee-Ann Angatookaluk, Chisasibi Animal Rescue 

"It is important because people have to take care of their dogs," said Lee-Ann Angatookaluk, who works for the Chisasibi Animal Rescue shelter and is providing some services out of the shelter's van.

But the longer-term vision is to open a clinic near the Chisasibi airport to offer veterinary services and animal welfare support to all of the Cree communities, according to Rhéaume-Provost. Right now, the closest veterinary clinic is in Val d'Or, more than 900 kilometres south of Chisasibi.   

"We want to have a regional veterinarian clinic of Eeyou Istchee," Rhéaume-Provost said, adding that it is time for pet owners in all the Cree communities to have access to emergency care and regular access to a veterinarian closer to home. 

The Chisasibi Animal Rescue shelter was forced out of its current home in Chisasibi's industrial park area after extensive mould was found in the building. (submitted by Catherine Rhéaume-Provost)

"It would mean that we could finally have access to real services in Chisasibi," said Rhéaume-Provost. 

"It would lower the amount of headaches we have to deal with every time a dog needs medical attention."

Efforts are underway to get funding for the project from the federal government as well as the Quebec government's Plan d'action nordique 2020-2023, which is set to be released soon.

Good for development and public health

Rhéaume-Provost said having a dog population that is well cared for and under control is good for economic development and for public health. 

"What's the point of developing all your nice buildings and trails around town when there's huge packs of dogs scaring people," she said, adding animal welfare and control has a direct impact on human well-being.

"It's really a matter of public health," she said. 

Catherine Rhéaume-Provost is the Chisasibi Animal Rescue co-ordinator. (submitted by Catherine Rhéaume-Provost)

Prior to the shutdown, the shelter was offering vaccination, basic grooming and daycare services. It was also helping to organize an annual spay and neuter clinic in Chisasibi with Chiots Nordiques, a charity with a mission to help Indigenous communities in the province control the dog population. 

Rhéaume-Provost said that in the seven years since Chisasibi Animal Rescue opened its doors, it has made very important progress, improving the lives of animals in Chisasibi and also the people who live alongside them. 

"We're very proud of the work we've been doing," said Rhéaume-Provost.

An architect is currently working on the design of a permanent veterinary clinic to be located by the airport, according to Rhéaume-Provost.

Rhéaume-Provost said she hopes to have it open by the spring or the summer.

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