Murdoch University, Western Australia has this week launched a new dog health program to both support the educational development of its final-year veterinary students and to assist members and their pets of remote communities in the western state. On Tuesday, the university’s Professor Ian Robertson, Dr Peter Ricci and six students left for the Kimberley region – an area suffering an overpopulation crisis – where they’ll remain for a two-week period conducting neutering operations on some 60 animals. The program is specifically targeting communities without direct access to veterinary practices, including those as far as 200km south of Broome, up to the remote areas of the Dampier Peninsula.
“Where the are no veterinary services there is a strong link between too many dogs, which leads to – particularly in the Indigenous communities where the dogs are free-roaming – health problems caused by zoonotic diseases,” said Professor Robertson. The most common of these zoonotic diseases [those transmitted from dogs to humans] are noticeable in children, with parasites and skin diseases causing. The small group of veterinary students will have the chance to help curb zoonotic disease in a first-hand capacity.
“It’s an invaluable experience to get to perform such a large number of sterilisation surgeries in short, intense amount of time,” said Aimee Burrows, a fifth-year student. “We will also be providing a service in these communities which not only benefits the animals we are seeing, but the people who live there too.” Fellow student John Neskudla agreed, adding that “veterinarians are devoted to the health and wellbeing of animals and having a program like this one, to allow us inroads into the remote communities, will have positive benefits for animal health and welfare and can also have strong implications for animal health.”
This is the ninth year in which Professor Robertson has taken students to remote areas in Western Australia, but the first in the Kimberley region conducting such work. The program is supported by the WA Department of Health’s Environmental Health Directorate and the Nirrumbuk Aboriginal Centre.