WHAT DOES THE TASK FORCE DO?
We are a registered charity that provides large scale, high quality spay and neuter clinics for Alberta’s First Nations and other communities, by invitation. Our volunteer based group works within the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association (ABVMA) guidelines by applying for a “Temporary Veterinary Facility” license for each clinic. These guidelines ensure the safety of our patients. The clinics can be held in community halls, school gyms, arenas. etc. In most cases, the clinics must be repeated in order to be effective. We have the ability to set up a MASH type surgical unit to spay and neuter up to 430 animals over one weekend. The Task Force also provides guidance regarding community based Animal Care and Control Programs.
The clinics provides spay and neuter surgery for dogs and cats as well as vaccinations (including rabies), internal/external parasite control and all animals are tattooed.
DOES THE TASK FORCE RESCUE DOGS AND CATS?
No, but with that being said, there are so many rescue groups who have the resources to re-home dogs or cats. These groups kindly assist with re homing the 50-235 relinquished animals that we can see at each clinic. The rescue groups place up to 900 animals/year in new homes. We work with up to 20 reputable and carefully screened rescues organizations.
DOES THE TASK FORCE TARGET CERTAIN ANIMALS OR AREAS IN THE FIRST NATION COMMUNITY?
We do prioritize the larger, free roaming dogs who can get into trouble by posing a threat to community members, chasing livestock, forming packs, having litters or who live outside and may have more freedom to roam than the smaller, indoor dogs. We also focus on the more populated areas of the communities such as schools or public buildings where dogs can congregate. We strategically target areas. Maps are highlighted according to the number of homes and our teams of volunteers go door to door in order to ensure that all dogs whose owners are willing to have their pets fixed are targeted.
These dogs are gathered by a core group of experienced volunteers, with the owner’s’ permission. We accommodate other animals that are brought to us by their owners through general registration. We also believe in the 70% Solution where, if we can sterilize 70% of the dogs in 1 area and interrupt a breeding cycle, we can stabilize the population. This demonstrates to communities that spaying/neutering is an important component of a humane means of animal control.
WHO PAYS FOR THE CLINICS?
The clinics are funded in whole or in part by the community. We also receive funding through private and corporate donations, rescue groups, fundraising and grants. There is no charge to the owners of the animals. The Task Force does subsidize clinics.
WHAT IS REQUIRED FROM OUR VOLUNTEERS?
There are so many tasks for trained and untrained volunteers! The spay/ neuter surgeries are performed by ABVMA licensed veterinarians with the skilled support of Registered Veterinary Technicians. Providing food to hungry workers, doing laundry, sterilizing surgical instruments , registration, handling animals and many more tasks are done by general volunteers.
The clinics can be very fast paced. Over one weekend we can provide care for over 550 animals. These animals are housed in cages and crates and require walking, food/water and their crates cleaned. There will be lots of heavy lifting, walking and standing. Task Force Volunteer Managers and Leaders will provide a schedule prior to the clinic that shows what shifts you are asked to work, an orientation, directions to the clinic, and other information. Verbal orientations are also given at the clinic by your Manager or Leader. Food will be provided. Each area such as dog/cat caregivers, recovery, pre anaesthetic health checks, registration, kitchen help, scribes, dog handlers, prep, surgery, etc. will have a Manager or Leader who can help you. All volunteers must sign a waiver as well as a model release just in case we take your picture.
Each clinic can have up to 20 licensed veterinarians, 25 Registered Veterinary Technologists, and over 130 “lay” volunteers. The total time spent planning and executing one clinic is over 3,100 hours. The Task Force provides a hands on learning opportunity for both Veterinarian and Veterinary Technologist students. Community members are welcome to observe and volunteer.
There will be a Responsible Veterinarian, Clinic Director, Executive Director, Medical Manager, Area Managers and Leaders who can answer any of your questions. The Responsible Veterinarian is responsible for adhering to the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association requirements and oversees the overall clinic operations.
Please ensure that your pet’s vaccinations are up to date and change your clothing when returning home after a clinic. You may also want to bring a change of clothing. Rabies and tetanus vaccinations are recommended for volunteers.
CAN I TAKE PICTURES?
Sorry, no photographs are allowed. Anyone taking pictures will be asked to leave the clinic.
There will be a designated photographer at most clinics. Task Force approved photos will be shared via our Facebook Page.
WHY TATTOOS VS MICROCHIPS?
While microchips are an excellent way of providing permanent identification, tattoos are visible and don’t require a micro chip reader. Any owner, community member, humane society, rescue group or Animal Control Officer can instantly identify a tattoo. We also receive a number of calls from First Nation health departments for information regarding when a dog was vaccinated for rabies. The staff can read the tattoo to us and we can provide the vaccination history. Health departments cannot have micro chip readers readily available. Our tattoo code is assigned by the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association and is universally accepted in Alberta. The Task Force is available 365 days a year to help reunite owners with their animals and confirm ownership and surgery/vaccination details. With over 11,000 animals with our tattoo, we receive, on average, 20 calls/month asking for owner information or vaccination history. We are very committed to ensuring lost dogs or cats are reunited with their owners. If an animal cannot be reunited, we will always facilitate placing the animal with a rescue group, if necessary. Microchips would also add a significant cost to our budget. With over 2,500 animals spayed or neutered each year, the cost would be prohibitive given our limited funding.
HOW DOES THE TASK FORCE INVOLVE THE COMMUNITY IN THE CLINICS?
Each clinic requires a number of meetings within the community with Leadership. Our Executive Director and a Board Member typically travel to the community prior to the clinic in order to ensure the clinic site is suitable, meet with community members, and plan the clinic. One of the requirements for providing a clinic is that a letter of support be obtained from the Band Council in order to apply for a licence from the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association. We work with community leaders, health departments, First Nation organizations, local schools, elders and maintain an open door policy of transparency about our operations, as well as the opportunity for any interested community members to tour, follow their pets through the clinic, or participate through volunteering. Our ties to these communities and their members are a point of pride for us. We have made many good friends in the communities we visit.
HOW DOES THE TASK FORCE DECIDE WHICH COMMUNITIES THEY VISIT?
The ASNTF receives many requests each year from communities seeking humane animal population control solutions and we have a waiting list. Some requests are from Chief and Council directly, while others are initiated by the First Nation Health Department or education professionals. The ASNTF Executive Director and Board of Directors review many factors such as our capacity, resources, needs of the community, location and other factors. We are very committed to revisiting communities we have previously visited in order to maintain the dog population at a manageable level.
WHAT VACCINE PROTOCOL DOES THE TASK FORCE USE?
All animals that come to our clinics are vaccinated, including rabies (provided the animal is old enough). Vaccine protocols differ greatly and, because of the prevalence of parvo and distemper in Alberta, we are proactive in eliminating these diseases. The protocol for dogs and cats living in cities may be very different than what is appropriate for free roaming dogs or cats living in communities where the majority of dogs and cats are not vaccinated regularly or at all. Also, these dogs and cats interact with wildlife and rabies vaccines are very important. If the animal does have a vaccination history, we take this into account. With over 11,000 animals vaccinated at our clinics, we have had no reported complications regarding a reaction to a vaccine. We have noticed a significant decrease in parvo in our partner communities and have provided vaccines in a community where a distemper outbreak resulted in the death of many dogs. After vaccinating the majority of the dogs in the area, there were no new reported deaths.
I’VE HEARD THAT SPAYING AND NEUTERING DOGS AND CATS IS A WASTE OF RESOURCES AND PUTS PATIENTS AT RISK – WHY DON’T YOU USE CONTRACEPTIVE IMPLANTS INSTEAD?
Surgical spaying and neutering is safe and permanent when done right! Surgical sterilization is currently the only 100% successful means of preventing reproduction in dogs and cats. The protocols under which we perform our clinics are kept to an extremely high standard and the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association has very strict Quality Assurance Guidelines that we must adhere to.
Every animal that comes to a Task Force clinic is accompanied by a signed informed consent. The consent is explained verbally to each owner. All of our patients receive a pre anesthetic health check performed by a Veterinarian in order to ensure they are good candidates for surgery.
As technology and research continues to progress, we are committed to providing the best means of humane animal population control available and look forward to the day when non surgical sterilization is safe and effective. The Task Force believes that implanting a female contraceptive is an option in remote communities or developing countries where surgery is not feasible. Because we do have the resources, we will continue to sterilize animals surgically. If just one female dog lives beyond the efficacy of a contraceptive implant, she will go on to produce puppies.
According to SPAY USA, an intact female dog, her mate and the resulting offspring (if none were spayed/neutered) add up to 512 puppies in 3 years.
While implanting female dogs with a contraception may reduce the dog population, we, along with our First Nation communities, are also focused on human safety. Neutering male dogs is very important in reducing human/dog conflict.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association Task Force on Canine Aggression and Human-Canine Interactions report released in 2001, “A Community Approach to Dog Bite Prevention”, “Intact males are involved in 70-77% of reported dog bite incidents.”
WHAT FOLLOW UP IS DONE AFTER LEAVING A COMMUNITY?
Every animal is provided with a rabies tag and vaccination certificate, as well as written after-care instructions. The after care instructions are also explained verbally. The owners are provided with a cell number they can call 24/7. Arrangements are made prior to each clinic with local veterinary clinics for any care required post surgery. The Task Force pays for any related veterinary costs. Many follow up phone calls and visits are made after each clinic in order to check on our patients. If an owner is unable to drive their pet to a local clinic, arrangements are made with local volunteers or our Community Liaison. We take pride in our low rate of reported post surgical complications. Our medical protocols include pain management, an injectible antibiotic, tissue glue, appropriate suture material among other protocols that ensure the safety of our patients. Our Medical Team that includes experienced surgeons, constantly revisits our protocols in order to ensure we are providing safe surgery. We keep very detailed records of all owners and animals.
DOES THE TASK FORCE EUTHANIZE DOGS AND CATS?
We, along with our partner communities and rescue groups, believe that euthanizing animals in not acceptable except in cases of extremely serious injury or illness or in cases of very severe behavioral issues that cannot be remediated and where the dog poses a serious risk to humans. The Task Force occasionally engages a certified dog behaviorist in order assess dogs and assist with rehabilitation.
DOES THE TASK FORCE HAVE ANY PROGRAMS THAT ADDRESS DOG POPULATION MANAGEMENT, RESPONSIBLE PET CARE, AND COMMUNITY SAFETY BEYOND THEIR CLINICS?
Yes! In early 2016, the Task Force and the Siksika Nation entered into a partnership to work together to develop and implement a new and ground-breaking community based Siksika Dog Care and Control Program (SDCCP). After a particularly serious dog attack in the Siksika Nation in March 2016, the Siksika Justice Department contacted us for help and a partnership was born!
We have worked very closely with the Nation’s lawyers in order to create by laws that address not only animal welfare but providing a safe environment for community members, especially children.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Here are the components:
- Legislation: This includes both creating by laws and providing humane enforcement. Siksika Nation Chief and Council approved the new by laws in July 2016 and the Siksika Justice Department hired an Animal Care and Control Officer from within the community. The Task Force is providing ongoing mentorship and training.
- Registration and Licensing: The Task Force, along with community members and Siksika Security, have registered and licensed over 300 dogs. Registration and licensing is ongoing.
- Education: We attend community events and set up public awareness booths. The Task Force Education Committee is currently working on a new education program and we will work with Siksika Education to implement a curriculum and new programs for local schools as well as develop and implement an adult education program. We also work with the Siksika Health Department in order to research dog bites, remove dogs with a bite history, and assist with bite prevention.
- Accessible Spay and Neuter Programs: The Task Force will continue to provide an accessible spay/neuter program.
- Holding or Re-homing Facility: Impounded or stray dogs will be held at a boarding facility or at Alberta Animal Rescue Crew’s facility “Safe Haven” to be re-homed. We are very grateful to AARCS for their support.
- Controlling Access to Resources: We have designed a structured feeding program that we, along with the Siksika Justice Department, is in the process of implementing. We also encourage all communities to provide secure garbage containers in order to reduce dogs roaming as well as build fences to contain dogs. Free feeding dogs in populated areas is discouraged.
The Task Force has created this program based on the ICAM Document (International Coalition of Companion Animal Management) recommendations and Task Force experience, knowledge and expertise. We are committed to ensuring that the SDCCP is, and continues to be. a community based program.
Please check out the International Coalition of Companion Animals Document:
HOW ARE ANIMALS REGISTERED FOR SPAY/NEUTER SURGERIES? DO VOLUNTEERS JUST PICK UP FREE ROAMING ANIMALS?
Authorization from owners in the form of a signed consent is required for every animal that is spayed or neutered at one of our clinics. Owners have two options for registering their pets for surgery. They can bring their pets to us at the clinic facility, or our teams that go door-to-door in the community can complete the paperwork with the owner at their home and transport the animals to the clinic. Out teams in the community are able to help community members who don’t have transportation and can also help the owner if they are having trouble catching their animals. Volunteers do not pick up free roaming animals, any animal who is considered a stray/ not owned in the community still needs to have a signed consent form. Generally Community Liaisons help with this or families living in the neighborhood who recognize the free roaming dog as a stray.
WHAT DOES THE TASK FORCE DO WITH ANIMALS THAT ARE CONSIDERED STRAYS?
Contrary to popular belief, there are actually fewer stray animals in large, free roaming dog populations than many people believe. We have stats from one of our partner communities which tells us that 73% of the dogs are free roaming. Many people assume that if a companion animal is at large or semi-feral that the animal must not have an owner. This is not our experience.
However, while in a community, we do accept surrendered animals, again, with a signed relinquishment form from the caregiver or authorized community member. We also ask our Community Liaison to identify problem stray areas in the community (i.e.the community landfill station) and will receive permission from the Community Liaison to capture and place these animals in one of our partner rescue groups.
SAMPLE OUTLINE OF A CLINIC WEEKEND:
- Unload truck (approximately 9 am)
- Set up clinic site
- Designated teams gather dogs in targeted areas of the community.
- Surgery usually starts at about 1pm.
- Ongoing: Walk, feed, water animals, clean dog crates and cat cages
- 7am: Walk, feed, water animals, clean dog crates and cat cages
- Surgery starts at 8am and can end as late as 7pm
- Volunteers care for animals throughout the day
- 11am: Normally, general registration starts for guardians who drive their dogs or cats to us
- Animals gathered on Friday are driven home to their guardians provided they have recovered sufficiently. Some animals are kept longer.
- PM: Walk, feed, water animals, clean dog crates and cat cages
- 7am: Walk, feed, water animals, clean dog crates and cat cages
- Surgery starts at 8am and ends at approximately 4pm
- Volunteers care for animals throughout the day
- Volunteers assist with cleaning crates, loading the truck and cleaning up. The day usually ends at about 9pm
Please note: The format of the clinics can change according to community needs or requests.