Free clinics mean end to borrowing money for one AVC client

By AJ MacLeod

Oct. 12, 2016

Grant Kenny could never afford fees at veterinarian clinics since he first got his dog in 2008.

Kenny had to borrow money from his parents to pay for clinic fees for his dog for two years.

Then his community was selected for the Atlantic Veterinary College’s Chinook Project. The project offered a free veterinary clinic for the people of Natuashish in Labrador.

The project began in 2005 and has been run every year since. Jane Magrath and Dr. Lisa Miller, a veterinarian at Charlottetown Veterinary Clinic, began the project and approached Dr. Marti Hopson, a veterinarian at the Atlantic Vet College, to plan the first trip.

“I have coordinated every trip since, for the last 11 years. It is a round-year job for me and it is 100 per cent volunteer, I am not employed to do it,” Hopson said.

The focus of the clinic is to spay/neuter dogs and cats to control population. Vaccinations against rabies, distemper and parvovirus are done too. That is vital as the majority of the animals are not vaccinated, Hopson said.

Each year, the project selects students from the college to work the veterinarians at the clinics.

“It’s a very competitive process to be selected to go. Each year we have only four to eight students, and up to 30 will apply for those spots.

“It’s really hard to choose. We look for people with a real team attitude, who can perform under stressful conditions,” said Hopson.

The project also brings in other veterinarians from all over North America. Dr. Nicole Gallant from Kensington, P.E.I. was part of the project in 2010 and 2012.

“The Chinook Project was an eye-opening experience for me, that’s for sure.

“I got to work with so many great people and giving back to the people of Natuashish and Hopedale was such a rewarding experience,” said Gallant.

Gallant first heard of the project from a friend living in Yellowknife who read about it online.

“My friend Stephanie called me one day and asked me if I had heard of this project the Atlantic Veterinary College was putting on.

“As soon as she explained the project to me I knew it was something I wanted to be apart of,” said Gallant.

The project has helped people like Kenny and hundreds of others across Canada.

“Without the generous help from the Atlantic Veterinary College and everyone else involved I don’t think I’d be able to afford to take my dog to the vet.

“This was a really nice thing for them to do and I’m glad this project goes on every year,” said Kenny.