Pet owners gathered outside the Evelyne Saller Center on Alexander Street in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside on Sunday to visit a free veterinary clinic.
Some brought their dogs in for a simple grooming, like clipping their nails. Others were looking for ways to keep their furry companions warmer.
About two dozen veterinarians, assistants, nursing students and other volunteers helped run the “Pet Fair and People Care” event. Community Veterinary Outreach‘s (CVO) group of Vancouver.
The clinics, held a few times a year, offer free basic care for animals, as well as pet food, supplies and education. They also work with public services and organizations like the PHS Community Services Society to connect low-income and at-risk people in vulnerable communities with health care for themselves.
“We found that people love their animals, and once they trust their animals, they are more inclined to be more open with themselves and what they need,” said Kyla Townsend, veterinarian and CVO coordinator.
“Animals are familiar to everyone here, so trying to care for them is a priority. And then once you feel less stressed about taking care of your animal, you can focus on other things.”
The organization said online that a similar event held in July was very popular with people lining up for hours and the clinic saw 85 pets and 73 clients.
Ashton Wickramaratne, an emergency vet, said there are many barriers to veterinary care on the Downtown Eastside. Lack of easy transportation options, mental health issues, and finances can make it difficult.
“People come to us with their pets, and when their animals trust us, they feel a little bit calmer,” Wickramaratne said.
“These are people who are often left behind in terms of the human health care system. When they feel that trust, it allows a conversation to open up about other aspects of their well-being, whether it’s things like quitting or harm reduction or just getting into another environment that’s comfortable enough for them.”
Heith Moonie, a longtime construction worker, was one of the first in line at the clinic on Sunday.
Then, she opened the top of a small bag to reveal how her eight-year-old Shih Tzu Chihuahua named Bear was comfortably hidden inside.
Others with pets moved from the vet clinic tent set up across the street to the community center to see a community nurse for flu shots or a counselor for resources or referrals.
Moonie knows that Bear has some problems with his teeth, but the clinic did not offer direct veterinary care in the form of diagnosis or treatment for larger problems.
“My biggest concern right now is housing. When I have a home, a room that I can lock, then my dog will have a home. He’s an inside dog, so that’s my biggest concern. And then me too, actually, I’d like a room that I can lock as well,” Moonie said. “That is my biggest concern. After that, we can make regular visits to a vet or whatever when he’s calmer.”
He moved from Medicine Hat to Vancouver after being virtually unemployed since breaking his back in 2014. He and his adult son lived in a tent near Trout Lake for some time before they both finished a few months of construction work. full time.
“I’m starting to try. He got pretty risky for a while.”
Moonie currently lives in a shelter and needs to be out during the day.
He had been carrying Bear in an old duffel bag, so he was happy the clinic gave him a used dog carrier bag with vents and several warm blankets to wrap him up in.
“Now I can get it into transit more easily,” Moonie said.