First Nation Communities:
Dogs were domesticated when wolves with little or no fear of humans began to breed; thus, creating a new species. From the beginning of the domestication timeline, dogs helped people by carrying loads, alerting of predators and offering companionship to their children. In return, they were fed. As wolves were domesticated globally, the partnerships grew without the need of leashes or fences to keep dogs at our sides.
Many First Nations Communities still continue the tradition of allowing the dogs to do what they do and explore their land. This is not due to neglect; it is the belief that dogs should be able to explore, socialize and exercise naturally, just as they’ve done since the beginning of time. Dogs return home in the evening for dinner, and head out on adventures after breakfast.
There are many misconceptions about the conditions of dogs in First Nation Communities, as many are free roaming. They are not confined or chained up and have guardians who care deeply for them. Allowing dogs to roam free is an important part of their culture.
Unfortunately, without animals being spayed or neutered, this practice can cause unwanted litters, leading to unmanageable populations. In remote communities, there may be instances of dogs grouping together to form packs and showing aggression. These behaviours are a natural response due to the constant competition for survival resources.
Berkeley’s Place provides support to partnering communities in several ways. Our primary programs are education and providing donated tangible supplies. After years of working with traditional rescues, we realized the key to successfully helping an entire community is education. Our goal is to keep families and their companion dogs together; offering solutions, unbiased information, and alternatives to help everyone thrive.
We are currently working with three liaisons in First Nation Communities who focus on education and assisting guardians that may need some extra help. Through these relationships, our Foundation has learned more about problems or issues that different communities are facing; and, as such, have begun working in partnership to offer solutions.
We value First Nation Communities and acknowledge that relationships with animal welfare groups are often strained, as rescues have been removing animals without authorization. Theft under the guise of “rescue” is a common problem facing many communities; in many instances, animals are removed without authorization. Seeing a free roaming dog many people assume it to be stray, feral or abandoned animals. In reality, only approximately 3% of dogs in many First Nation Communities are actually strays. Dogs taken illegally from First Nation lands breaks trust within the community and devastates families.
This practice, and breakdown of trust, is of great concern to the Foundation’s Board of Directors. We feel everyone has the right to access necessary services to provide a healthy and safe community for their members and companion animals.
Some examples of programs are:
Sustainable food programs: Emergency relief food programs are often inconsistent (due to distance and resources) and not a constant source for families. With knowledge regarding portion control and alternative feeding ideas, food will last longer.
We do offer a rotational-based food program to assist families that may need extra support, or to assist in emergency situations.
Basic Health Education programs: Many times, the “why” is overlooked in the discussion of vaccines, de-wormers and spay/neuter programs. We are happy to answer questions regarding the long and short-term benefits to the overall care of companion pets.
We have worked with suppliers and donors to get large quantities of de-wormer on hand, thus helping rid dogs of parasites that are transferable to humans.
Proof of Ownership: As mentioned above, theft is becoming a big issue within First Nations Communities. Many times, roaming dogs are deemed strays and removed from their home. Providing animal guardians with collars and/or a harness, helps to identify their animals as owned by people passing through. Additionally, we have worked with families to microchip their dogs, and provide legal proof of ownership.
First Nation Communities need help, but they need respectful help. It is our honor to work with Indigenous leaders and band members to deliver sustainable animal welfare education, services, and resources to communities that have asked for our assistance. Instead of removing animals, our goal is to help provide education and tools to work towards solutions to each community's individual needs.