Dr. Helene Van Doninck

The veterinary and wildlife rehabilitation community mourns the loss of Helene Van Doninck who passed away recently in Truro, Nova Scotia of ovarian cancer. I went to university with Helene and remember her fondly for her compassion and wit. Helene dedicated her life to helping others. Those she helped often have four legs, fur or feathers. Dr. Van Doninck exemplified a passion for animal husbandry that knew no boundaries and a strong desire to share her knowledge and skills.

While working at a veterinary practice in Newfoundland in the years following her graduation, Helene came to recognize that help for individual wild animals was not readily available. She began caring for animals that came into the clinic on her own time. For someone as passionate about animals as Helene, this wasn’t enough.

In 2001, Helene and her husband, Murdo Messer, founded the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. The centre is a sanctuary for wildlife and is located on the property of their home in Hilden, Nova Scotia. Helene’s team, made up entirely of volunteers, works tirelessly to rehabilitate and care for the animals that come through the centre, with the goal of releasing all back into the wild. Their organization strives to educate the public about wildlife concerns, most notably the issue of lead poisoning in bald eagles. Helen has started a major lead poisoning outreach program for the hunting and fishing communities.

Helene and Murdo manage to provide state-of-the-art care to roughly 300 animals every year, on limited funding. The Bald Eagle Flight Recovery Centre, the first of its kind in Canada, is a large oval-shaped cage, which allows eagles to fly freely during their rehabilitation. A number of large cages on Helene’s property allow wildlife to roam at liberty, with limited human interaction. The cages replicate the animal’s wild habitats, allowing them to exercise their natural instincts and ensuring their survival in the wild upon release. This facility is licensed to house and rehabilitate wildlife.

Helene also worked part-time at a number of clinics in Nova Scotia, including the SPCA. She was passionate about sharing her knowledge and expertise with others.

Dr. Van Doninck was an avid member of many different non-profit organizations. She was a member of the Nova Scotia Bird Society and on the board of directors. She also worked as an Oiled Wildlife Response and Emergency Preparedness Consultant/Trainer. She worked with various companies, organizations, institutions, government agencies and individuals to help train for oiled wildlife prevention and response. Her training in oil spill response had enabled her to respond to many oil spills in Canada and USA to provide care and rehabilitation for affected wildlife.

From 2000-2011, Helene was a lecturer and a clinical instructor in Veterinary Technology programs and as a guest lecturer for several degree courses such as Avian Biology, Companion Animal Nutrition, Companion Animal Behaviour, and Aquatic Ecology at the Faculty of Agriculture. Helene recently won several awards both from the Provincial, Atlantic and National levels. Helene, you will be missed by many.

(Information collected from the Faculty of Agriculture’s Alumni volunteer award write up)

Written by Dr. Jane Corkum, DVM


The Importance of Microchipping Your Pet

Pets can get lost which can be a traumatic and possibly tragic event.  It’s important to have a collar and ID tag, but these are not foolproof.  Collars can break or fall off leaving your pet unidentifiable. This can be prevented with the use of a microchip. As noted in the Dartmouth Tribune in April 2017: A pet is lost every seven seconds One in three pets will go missing in their lifetime Only 2 percent of lost cats and 17 percent of lost dogs with ID return home When a pet gets lost, they are 20 times more likely to make their way back home when they have a microchip A microchip is a small chip that is encoded with a unique identification number.  It is no bigger than a grain of rice and implanted just under the surface of your pet’s skin.  The process is similar to receiving a vaccination through a needle and is virtually painless to pets.  Once implanted, the microchip remains between the shoulder blades just beneath the skin for the rest of the animal’s lifetime, becoming a permanent form of identification. Since it’s under your pets’ skin it can’t break or fall off like a collar or tag. The chip is powered by a scanner which sends a signal to the chip and receives the identification number stored on it.  A vet or shelter can use the scanner to read your pet’s chip.  With the identification number, your pet’s information is a phone call away. When your pet is microchipped, it is linked to a database with your contact info.  It is essential that you register the microchip and ensure your contact information is kept up to date.  If you move or change phone numbers be sure to update your information.  Microchips are reliable and use nationwide registries, but they depend on the information you provide. If you want to improve your chances of getting your pet back home quickly and safely microchipping is highly recommended.   Written by Tracy LeFler, Site Coordinator Edited by Janis Wall, RVT

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