by Betty Bardswich
MINDEMOYA—The 21st century has seen a decided shift in the way people regard animals and their welfare.
In the United States, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), headed by Dr. Neil Barnard, seeks, with a great deal of headway, to eliminate the use of animals in research centres and universities. “All of our current knowledge of medicine and surgery derives from observation of man,” Dr. Bernard has said as well as, “surgery can’t be learned on animals.”
Professor John Webster of the University of Bristol has written two books concerning animal welfare and has outlined three positive conditions for achieving this result. These are: animals living a natural life, being fit and healthy and being happy. Worldwide, sanctuaries abound to help achieve these goals for rescued animals from primates to donkeys to elephants and chickens. Perhaps one of the best known is the Gentle Barn California, founded by First Nation Ellie Laks and often featured on the Ellen DeGeneres show while another such barn has opened in Tennessee and comedian and television host Jon Stewart and his wife have opened an animal refuge in New Jersey. There are several sanctuaries in Ontario and over the years Islanders have played an active role in the rescue of cats and dogs as well as horses.
The Swain family of Gore Bay has always had a lot of dogs and daughter Ina remembers her family having five rescues at a time when she was growing up. Kathy Size and her husband Keith of Sandfield recently picked up another rescue, this time a Cavalier King Charles spaniel and Ms. Size spoke to The Expositor about the importance of rescue. “You go to the rescue place and you see all these dogs and cats and you know they want somebody to pick them up and take them home,” she said. “Pretty well everyone can have at least one dog or cat, but if you do have an animal, they have to be part of the family. You have to take good care of a pet, and if you can’t, do not have one.”
Angie Moggy of Mindemoya not only has dogs and cats, she also foster animals and has been doing so for about 10 years now. She is passionate about opening her home to these animals in need and emphasizes the need for more people to be doing so. “Until people step up to foster,” she explained, “the rescue efforts on Manitoulin will never meet their full potential. There will always be animals left behind. There is a goal to build a shelter on Manitoulin, but we have to concern ourselves with the animals who need help now. I don’t think people understand what fostering is all about. Everything is paid for. Food, vet bills and so on. It is a good experience for people who are thinking about getting an animal and of course it is also a good experience for the animal. Perhaps it had been left outside, chained up. Now it can learn to live in a house, it learns love and it learns training and social skills. It is all positive as far as I am concerned.”
Earlier this year, individuals from pet services groups here on the Island met for the first time to talk about the coordination of all the rescue organizations on Manitoulin. Initiated by Holly Scott of Scott Veterinary Services, the new group, dubbed Manitoulin Pet Rescue, is now up and running. “I could see that there were people working hard with pet rescue groups on Manitoulin, but the problem was bigger than any could handle on their own. A coordinated effort would provide support and assistance across all the groups,” Ms. Scott explained.
The key people from these pet rescue organizations included Debby Colville of Pet Save Manitoulin, Colleen Castleton and Joan Wood of Fixing Our Felines, Kathy Jewell from Kat’s Pet supplies, canine control officer Paul Methner, Pat Wood from Island Animal Hospital and Julie McDermid from Golden Rescue of Ontario. Ms. Scott also made mention of the tremendous effort Jean Flamand and Jenni Manitowabi of the Wiky Rez Dogs group have made to bring the pet population in Wikwemikong under control.
The long term goal of Manitoulin Pet Rescue is to have a central facility where stray or abandoned animals can be housed and rehomed, but is currently working with established foster homes and seeks to have more of these homes in line. Islanders can then adopt these healthy pets that have been spayed and neutered. The umbrella group also identifies cases of uncontrollable breeding, the abandonment of pets and animal cruelty.
“We still have work to do with townships and bands to establish and coordinate effective animal control on Manitoulin,” Ms. Scott added. “We’re anticipating positive things.”