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Dr. Jonas Watson

By MYRON LOVE

Last April, one of the guests of honour at the World Veterinary Association’s annual Congress in San José, Costa Rica, was Dr. Jonas Watson. The Winnipeg veterinarian was one of six veterinarians from around the world who were presented with the WVA’s annual Welfare Award.

 

 

 

 


The award, which the WVA introduced two years ago, recognizes those veterinarians who are working to protect and promote animal welfare. The award, which is sponsored by Ceva Santé Animale, includes a 5,000 Euro prize.
“This award is very meaningful to me,” says the son of Richard and Rhoda (Shatsky) Watson. “A big part of what we do involves animal welfare. In particular, I was recognized for my work in providing veterinary services to underserved communities – communities that are geographically isolated and/or underprivileged.”
The 41-year-old Watson says that he has always had an affinity for animals – so much so that he stopped eating meat while still a kid. (He notes that it is much easier now to find vegetarian alternatives than it used to be.)

Watson grew up in River Heights. He is a graduate of the Hebrew Bilingual program in the south end and Grant Park High School. Although his first inclination at university was toward filmmaking, it wasn’t long before he was drawn to Veterinary Studies at the University of Saskatchewan’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon.
After graduation in 2006, he worked for six months in Gimli and a year in Seattle before returning to Winnipeg as an associate at Tuxedo Animal Hospital at the Tuxedo Park Shopping Centre. His is primarily a small animal practice serving clients in Winnipeg.
His interest in philanthropic outreach was sparked by his participating in a spay-neuter clinic in the northern Saskatchewan community of Île-à-la-Crosse during his university studies, where he saw first-hand the critical need for veterinary services in remote communities.
One of the initiatives that he is involved in locally is the Community Veterinary Outreach for Manitoba, of which he is co-director. The organization, he notes, was founded in Ottawa in 2003 and had inspired similar branches across the country.
“Our One Health Clinics provide integrated health and welfare services to animals, their owners and the planet,” he explains. “Three or four times a year, we set up a clinic (combining veterinarians and other healthcare professionals) in neighbourhoods that have a disproportionately large number of vulnerably-housed or homeless people. These are people who have strong bonds with their pets but don’t have access to veterinary care. We provide vaccinations for their pets and deworm them and also offer pet owners dental care, flu shots and other services.”

Four years ago, Watson was recruited by an organization called “The Mad Dog Initiative” whose mission is to “promote wildlife conservation, animal welfare and human health in Madagascar through the care and management of feral dogs”. (Madagascar is a large island country in the Indian Ocean just east of South Africa.) The program, Watson explains, brings together veterinarians, wild life experts and biologists. Watson spent six weeks in the spring of 2015 in Madagascar.
“My role was to spay and neuter and vaccinate dogs in villages – especially villages near national parks – to alleviate the dogs’ impact on endangered species – specifically lemurs,” he says. “We also worked with local vets to help them hone their skills. We were able to bring one of the vets to Winnipeg the following February to further her professional development.”

Also in 2015 and again in 2017, he participated in five-day spay/neuter campaigns for an organization called Isla Animals in a poor neighbourhood at Isla Mujeres in Mexico. “Dozens of veterinarians from around the world participated,” Watson reports. “We treated dozens of dogs every day.
“That experience led me to think that Manitoba First Nations communities could also benefit from this kind of a program. There are 75 First Nations communities in the province, many of which can only be reached by air much of the year. For many of these pet owners, we are the first veterinarians that they have ever encountered.”
With the help of a small donation, he says, his team of volunteers has been able to assemble a mobile clinic with surgical tools, endotrachea tubes and other equipment for spaying and neutering the dogs in these remote communities.
Here at home Watson is President of the Manitoba Veterinary Medical Association, Vice Chair of the Winnipeg Humane Society board, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Animal Blood Bank.
“I expect to see a lot of positive changes in regard to animal welfare over the next 50 to 100 years,” Watson says. “I am particularly proud that our association has managed to have the archaic practice of cat de-declawing brought to an end.”
He and his partner have two rescue dogs – one from a Manitoba puppy mill and the other saved from the brutal dog meat trade in Thailand – as well as a cat and a rabbit at home.
He will be going back to Mexico in November but – with a two-year-old daughter at home, he notes, he is learning to rebalance his activities in order to be able to spend more time with his family.

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#1 Lay Vaccinator, Rankin Inlet, NUPage Burt 2019-08-12 23:35
Many people do not know that Jonas Watson ALSO helps out with veterinary services to dogs in Nunavut, by working with our local spay-neuter program, doing annual veterinary clinics in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, 300 miles north of Churchill. In this clinic, we usually do 30-35 surgeries per year, working on pets from multiple communities. Much appreciated by Nunavummiut.
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