A Cree Woman's Call to Action on Animal Welfare

·2 min read

Save Rez Dogs is an Indigenous-based, grassroots initiative started in 2016. The founder, Leah Arcand, from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, began to use the hashtag #SaveRezDogs while working and teaching a land based program in Thunderchild First Nation.

Save Rez Dogs provides resources and information for communities who are dealing with the overpopulation of dogs on reservations, and the subsequent issues that this can cause. The organization is sounding a call to action for communities to gather resources and develop their own dog management plan, as every community's needs will be unique.

Leah shares that this began when she was teaching a land-based program for grade 7 and grade 8 girls at Thunderchild first nation. She began to feed and care for the friendly neighborhood dogs that would hang around the school. Leah Arcand joined SaultOnline to talk more about the initiative.

“Using the land-based program, I was integrating our relationships with the dogs to my girls and role modeling and reframing the stereotypes that we hear every day about, that dogs are pests and all this sort of stuff. I think we've kind of forgotten about how we should be treating animals.”

“I started getting donations, so I started feeding more dogs, and using the hashtag #SaveRezDogs on my social media. I was using my personal Facebook to share stories or situations about these dogs, and that’s when the momentum started for me. I started to become known as 'the dog person' in the community.”

Leah proposes 5 calls to action that all communities should consider:

“We can't wait for the Chief and Council to do something. Even if they do, in most cases that I have witnessed, they authorize to shoot dogs after a community post is up.” Leah continues to state the importance of being a good role model. “It's not right for kids as young as 7 to say that their community shoots dogs.”

Save Rez Dogs has even captured the attention of Buffy Sainte-Marie, showing her support through a Facebook comment and donation.

New Collar Collective is an Ontario-based rescue initiative that has teamed up with Save Rez Dogs to host a webinar happening tonight. Leah will be talking about how Indigenous animal welfare is in crisis, and how colonialism is at the root of these issues. This is to support and empower Indigenous communities and help save the rez dogs and other animals in the process through education and action.

Save Rez Dogs offers information and resources available to communities who are dealing with overpopulation and neglect of rez dogs.

Join the conversation and see how action can be taken in your local community.

Josie Fiegehen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, SaultOnline.com