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Sharing knowledge across continents; Canadian vets visit Australian remote communities with AMRRIC

The team! L-R Dr Stephen Cutter, Dr Bonny Cumming, Dr Audrey Remedios, Mowana the dog, Dr Dan Schull, Dr Susan Kutz

Regular AMRRIC supporters may remember that in 2018, AMRRIC’s Program Manager – Strategic Delivery, Dr Bonny Cumming, was invited to Vancouver to present to the Veterinarians Without Borders (VWB) Board Meeting about AMRRIC’s work in remote Australian communities. You can read more about Bonny’s trip here.

The cross-continental knowledge exchange continued recently; from April 8 to 12, Bonny hosted two VWB-affiliated Canadian veterinarians, Drs Susan Kutz and Audrey Remedios, on the Warlukurlangu Artists’ and Central Desert Regional Council supported veterinary program in Yuendumu, Nyirripi and Yuelamu, NT. The team also included Dr Stephen Cutter, The Ark Animal Hospital, and Dr Dan Schull, from The University of Queensland School of Veterinary Science. Dr Cutter is an AMRRIC founding member has been providing veterinary services to Yuendumu, Nyirripi and Yuelamu for many years while Dr Schull and the team from UQ are collaborating with AMRRIC on the Cherbourg Animal Health and Management Program in Queensland.

Drs Kutz and Remedios have worked extensively in the Canadian Arctic and Subarctic, providing care to animals in the remote and very isolated Canadian Indigenous communities.  The animal health and welfare concerns in northern Canada are much like those in the remote areas of the Northern Territory, including disease prevention, parasite control, and humane population control. There are currently only six full-time veterinary clinics operating in the three vast Canadian arctic territories, leaving over 50 communities of 100 or more families with no access to full-time veterinary care. As such, both Drs Kutz and Remedios are tasked with establishing a program to develop and provide veterinary care to the north under the auspices of the Canadian chapter of Veterinarians Without Borders. The goal of this Australian visit was for these vets to observe and learn from the delivery of AMRRIC’s programs in the field.  

Both veterinarians remarked on the similarities in the histories of colonization and marginalization of Indigenous peoples in Canada and Australia, and the consequent socio-cultural-economic outcomes that additionally affect the heath of domestic animals.  They noted several common barriers in program delivery, which included severe climatic conditions (-35degC in Canada, +35degC in Australia), great distances, isolation and resource poor settings. They also appreciated the invaluable coordinating role and the strong relationships that Dr Cutter and AMRRIC had established in the communities – also an essential component of successful program delivery in northern Canada.

From the perspective of animals in the communities, both vets were impressed with the good overall health of the dog population and surprised by the number of cats! The vets were also surprised to encounter Canine Transmissible Venereal Tumours in several desert dogs, since this disease does not occur in Canada. They learned that this disease is, thankfully, treated with great success with medication and reduced in frequency through de-sexing surgery.  

While sharing breakfasts, lunches, dinners and numerous hours riding in the troopie, a great deal of discussion and ideas flowed regarding remote veterinary program delivery and development in the respective countries. All of the vets involved are keen to continue to collaborate, applying One Health philosophies and approaches to improve human and animal health in Indigenous communities across international borders.  

AMRRIC thanks Drs Kutz and Remedios for their ongoing interest in our mission, and taking the time to share their own experiences for the betterment of our shared work!

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