For seven of the past eight years, volunteers from the Rural Area Veterinary Services Program set up camp in Fort Totten and offered free veterinary service for local pets. The volunteers sleep in the Recreation Center and spend two full weeks helping as many pets as they can.
This year, the crew will be returning on July 8 and staying until July 22 to provide vaccinations, de-worming, flea and tick control and other wellness issues for dogs and cats.
Spay/neuter surgery will be offered July 9-12, with all pets undergoing surgery also receiving vaccinations, de-worming and other services.
Friday, July 13 has been set aside for animals needing only vaccinations or other non-surgical care.
The Rural Area Veterinary Services Program is provided by the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, an affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States.
Niki Ianni, of The Humane Society, said they will open the doors at 8 a.m. each day and pet owners will be helped on a first come-first served basis until the clinic schedule is full.
“In prior years, families have been lined up early and the clinic has often been full by 9 a.m.,” she cautioned.
Ianni said there will be more than 50 volunteers making the trip, including 35 vet students, 15 veterinarians and three support volunteers.
In addition to visiting various Indian reservations in North Dakota, South Dakota and Washington state, the HSVMA-RAVS program has been offered in countries such as El Salvador, Guatamala, Mexico and Peru. In 2011, the program provided $1.5 million in free veterinary services to more than 8,600 animals in 42 communities around the world, most where no other animal services exist.
The next stop on the tour will be Fort Berthold, ND, followed by Standing Rock, ND and Quinault, WA. They have already visited Cheyenne River and Pine Ridge, SD.
Ianni said the local clinic will be held for members of the Spirit Lake Tribe, but those who cannot otherwise provide these services for their pets can also take advantage of the program.
“The tribes do a great deal to service the group by providing the volunteers with meals, etc.,” she said. “So, these clinics are ultimately designed for them.”
The main objective, she noted, is to promote pet health throughout the area.
“Having dogs and cats spayed or neutered not only prevents unwanted litters, but helps animals live longer, happier lives,” she said. “Providing vaccinations, de-worming, flea and tick control and other wellness care for dogs and cats helps to protect both animal and human health in the community.”