About us

Cat Lake Friends of Animush is a not-for-profit organization based in southwestern Ontario with the aim to better mental health in fly-in First Nations communities through improved animal welfare. There is a well documented link between healthy communities and how animals are treated. The ultimate goal of our clinics is to promote understanding between people and their pets which can lead to better human relationships.

dog paws
Our roots started after Ann Babey, a nurse from Mount Forest, Ontario saw a need for this healthy link.  In 2002, a focus group of  First Nation and non-aboriginal community members from Cat Lake, a fly-in community northwest of Thunder Bay, was formed.  At this time, dog culls were the most humane method available to manage the dog population and these culls were also a factor in residents seeking help with mental health issues.

The loss of a community dog added to the burden of grief. This focus group worked closely with the residents and Chief and Council to initiate programs with the hope that these dog culls would be not be necessary and community mental health would be enhanced.

A small group of veterinarians and support people from southern Ontario took an interest and volunteered for the first clinic in 2004.  These clinics were done in the remote Cat Lake community with all costs covered through fundraising and donations. Neuter/spay surgeries, immunizations and parasite control were offered free of charge to the owners of companion animals there.  Any sick or injured animals were treated, with some dogs coming out of the community for various reasons.  Relocating a dog is always done in consultation with the residents and Council to determine what is best for everyone.

These initial clinics were well attended and the benefits quickly became evident. There were fewer stray dogs, less packing and fighting over females in heat, fewer litters to contend with and disease transmission decreased. Healthy dogs are happy dogs and lead to healthy communities! A hands-on program was developed to help local children learn how to bathe, groom, make food and shelter for their pet, animal safety and basic animal behaviour. The goal was to to reinforce life and parenting skills through interacting with their companion animal. The end result is safer and healthy community.

Summer clinics continued at Cat Lake for over 10 years and the benefits grew. Once the dog population was under better control, dog culls were no longer necessary. A platform for animal care was developed through the yearly clinic model meaning residents were more able to participate in healthy relationships with their animals. Community members now communicate their concerns with us on an as needed basis, especially through social media. Friends of Animush has developed a relationship of trust which allows us to provide ongoing service to this and other remote communities facing similar challenges.

Word spread to nearby northern communities of our work and the communities’ success. What started in 2004 with Cat Lake and a handful of volunteers has now grown to many fly-in First Nation communities in northwestern Ontario and a multitude of vet and support teams. Logistics for these trips means a lot of planning but thanks to a committed group of volunteers both north and south, we have tremendous satisfaction knowing that the lives of people and dogs in remote northern Ontario communities is improving.  Happy dogs. Happy people!


"Never, never be afraid to do what’s right especially if the well being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way”.        Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.