On Friday afternoon (October 7th), 58 dogs flew into the Peterborough airport from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (Big Trout Lake First Nation), a community about 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay.
A team of 10 veterinary professionals received the flight of dogs, which included two pregnant females and several litters of puppies.
The Provincial Animal Transfer Team in collaboration with Big Trout Lake First Nation began assembling the dogs for their journey on October 3rd. They used food to bring the dogs to a central location, where they received a leash and a collar and were brought to a triage area for a health check and vaccinations.
Big Trout Lake First Nation took the lead in establishing the transfer of the dogs, and provided leadership, volunteers, a triage building for the dogs to stay in and meals and accommodations for the rest of the transfer team.
Andrew Fraser, Executive Director of the Peterborough Humane Society, applauded Big Trout Lake First Nation for taking the lead on this project.
“They’re leaders in animal welfare themselves, they care very much for their animal population. They recognized that this was an opportunity to bring these animals into Southern Ontario where there was a greater opportunity to find forever homes.”
Once the dogs were cleared for travel, they were secured in crates for the 4.5 hour North Star Air flight to Peterborough.
The dog transfer went smoothly, and The Peterborough Humane Society wants to ensure it can continue to accommodate large transfers of dogs like this one.
The organization, which has operated at 385 Lansdowne Street East in Peterborough since 1955, is currently raising funds to build a first-of-its-kind provincial dog rehabilitation facility in Peterborough.
They have purchased a 20-acre site located at 1999 Technology Drive where a new 43,000 square foot building will be built. Chris White, President of the Board of Directors of the Peterborough Humane Society, says that they need to raise another $4 million to make the facility a reality.
“It will have enough capacity to house all these dogs at once,” White explains. “So instead of flying them in and then sending them all over the place, we can rehabilitate them all here.”
Dogs at the facility won’t have to travel further until they are ready to be adopted. In addition to the Ontario SPCA Dog Rehabilitation Centre, the facility will also house the Peterborough Humane Society Shelter, a pet adoption and education centre, and a high-volume regional spay and neuter clinic.
When it comes to the 58 dogs flown in to the Peterborough Airport on Friday, Tanya Firmage, Chief of Humane Programs and Community Outreach with the Ontario SPCA, believes all of them will be adopted.
“These dogs make great pets because they’ve been in an environment where people care for them but they don’t have families,” Firmage says. “Taking them into a family environment is really all it takes. They get to spend the rest of their lives with a family that loves them.”
She points to Keira, a sweet-tempered dog wearing an Ontario SPCA bandana that has been sitting calmly among the crowd gathered at the airport.
Keira was brought to Buttonville Airport last year in a similar transfer.
“She didn’t have a person or a family to call her own and now she does,” Firmage says. “Now 58 others are going to as well.”
Vets from Cavan Hills Veterinary Services, Gull River Veterinary Services, and the entire staff of Sherbrooke Heights Animal Hospital were on hand to help.
Dr. Kristy Hiltz of Sherbrooke Heights Animal Hospital had a broken hand and had to watch from the sidelines. She said that from a veterinary perspective the transfer was well done.
“The OSPCA has done a fabulous job in terms of trying to minimize disease transfer: quarantine protocols, gowns, gloves,” Hiltz says. “This is a well-run operation because if one of these dogs had a contagious disease, were they not taking the precautions that they are, we could wind up with 58 very ill dogs.”
Kristy noted that the dogs looked healthy, although one of the dogs, a golden retriever, had an injury to one of its limbs.
Once the 58 dogs are cleared for further transport, they will be brought to the Peterborough Humane Society, North Bay & District Humane Society, Welland & District Humane Society, and Quinte Humane Society to be placed in their adoption programs.
For more information about the Peterborough Humane Society’s plans and to make a donation, visit www.phsnewshelter.ca.