RSPCA NSW’s Indigenous Community Companion Animal Health Program will visit Wilcannia and Menindee in the far West region of the state 1st – 3rd May to offer free desexing and animal health checks. The program aims to improve the health and welfare of animals in regional and remote Aboriginal communities that may not otherwise be able to easily access veterinary services.
The RSPCA Animal Health program is offered to communities free of charge. This program is funded by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) in conjunction with the closing the Gap strategy to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians. The government recognises the importance of dogs in Aboriginal communities and their impact on community health and safety.
The Animal Health program will be run by RSPCA staff and volunteers from Broken Hill, Sydney and Newcastle and is supported by the Wilcannia and Menindee Community Working Parties and the Central Darling Shire Council.
RSPCA NSW Veterinarian Dr Ann-Margret Withers,who’s been involved with the program since its inception eight years ago, believes effective community engagement is critical in making the program successful.
“We are excited to be working with the Aboriginal community in Wilcannia again. Local community members are helping us by conducting a pre-program survey and offering other support,” said Dr Withers. “With community and government help, we can continue helping to improve animal and human welfare via community engagement, veterinary services, plus education in schools.”
RSPCA NSW staff and volunteers will set up a temporary field hospital for members of the community to bring their pets along to and benefit from the program free of charge. Some of the services include vaccinations, health checks, microchipping, surgical or chemical desexing, treatment for fleas, worms, ticks, mange and other parasites, as well as practical pet care advice and education.
RSPCA NSW Veterinarian Dr Doug Dixon-Hughes and Training Coordinator Narelle Maxwell will speak with students and adults about responsible pet ownership, animal welfare, humane treatment of animals and safety concepts around animals such as bite prevention.
The RSPCA Indigenous Community Companion Animal Health Program has helped many communities throughout NSW with the assistance of NSW Health. Some of the areas they have visited in the past include; Boggabilla, Bourke, Bowraville, Brewarrina, Collarenebri, Enngonia, Gingie, Goodooga, Ivanhoe, Jabullum, Namoi, Purfleet, Taree,Toomelah, Walgett, Walhallow, Weilmoringle and Wilcannia, and now Menindee.
“So far, the team’s efforts have helped control overpopulation of companion animals and limit disease transmission between animals and humans in Aboriginal communities throughout NSW,” said Dr Withers.