'The most important relationship': Winnipeg clinic offers free health care for pets, owners alike

A pop-up clinic for low-income Winnipeggers and their pets offered free health services for both ends of the leash on Saturday.

The One Health Clinic, run by Canada-wide vet organization Community Veterinary Outreach, offered pro-bono services including spaying and neutering, vaccinations and deworming for pets belonging to people who are experiencing housing insecurity in Winnipeg, as well as grooming, nail trims and training.

"On a scale of one to 10, it's 100," said Adrian Knight, who brought pup Handsome Jack for his shots on Saturday. "It's so important, and I appreciate what they're doing here."

The day-long clinic at Broadway Neighbourhood Centre on Young Street was organized in partnership with Klinic Community Health and the University of Manitoba School of Dental Hygiene, Watson said. The event offered human services including flu vaccines, primary nursing care and dental care.

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"It's the most important relationship, and the care of their pet they will often prioritize even above themselves," said Susan Kilborn, a veterinarian and director with Community Veterinary Outreach.

"They will feed their pet before themselves, they will get care for their pet before they get care for themselves. We recognize that and we want to ensure that everybody is taken care of in that relationship."

'Pets are so important'

Kilborn said the free clinics, which have been run in cities in B.C. and Ontario as well as Winnipeg, usually see roughly 35 to 40 clients in a day. The last time the group held one in Winnipeg, however, roughly 70 people showed up.

Watson added that if animals show up with more serious conditions that can't be treated in a day, the owners get referrals to veterinary hospitals for follow-ups.

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Community Veterinary Outreach says on its website clients at the clinic are referred by community organizations like shelters or health centres.

Eligibility criteria include social assistance or support and no veterinary relationship with a clinic or vet within the last year, with exceptions for things like emergencies or spaying and neutering.

"This population can't necessarily afford regular vet care, but that doesn't mean that they shouldn't have pets," said Kate Armstrong, communications coordinator at Resource Assistance for Youth in Winnipeg.

"Pets are so important, especially for young people who maybe don't have a really strong community or a strong sense of family around them. For this to be able to take care of their pets in the way their pets take care of them is really special."