Companion animals in remote communities across Australia have experienced achallenging year so far. Due to restrictions around the COVID-19 pandemic,roughly 27,500 dogs have had reduced access to veterinary services andparasite protection – some have had absences of vet services for more than 12months. Further to this, a rare and life-threatening tick-borne diseaseaffecting dogs, Ehrlichiosis, was discovered in the Kimberley in May, and hassince been detected in other regions in WA, as well as throughout the NT.

Together with its partners and with communities, AMRRIC, or Animal Managementin Rural and Remote Indigenous Communities, has been working hard to improvehealth outcomes for these animals. Following the resumption of remote travel,teams of veterinary service providers have been on the road non-stopdelivering veterinary services and parasite protection. A key focus forAMRRIC’s vet team has been working to collect samples to allow the NTDepartment of Primary Industries to test animals for Ehrlichiosis, which hasnow been discovered in remote communities and urban centres throughout the NT.

To address this growing issue, AMRRIC has secured a large quantity of parasitemedication through generous support from Boehringer Ingelheim, themanufacturers of NexGard. AMRRIC’s investment of $20,000, together withgenerous discounts from Boehringer Ingelheim, will result in almost 3000 dogsreceiving NexGard – a highly effective anti-parasite treatment targetingticks, fleas and mange.

AMRRIC has also had additional support from PETstock Assist in coordinatingstock delivery and providing a $10,500 donation of food and enrichmentproducts for companion animals in remote communities. PETstock Assist Charityand Events Coordinator, Jessica Guilfoyle, says supporting members of thecommunity hardest hit by COVID-19 has been a key focus for the charity;“Throughout the pandemic our charity has been working closely with communitygroups such as AMRRIC to determine where the greatest need is, and how we canprovide support.” she says. ‘Ehrlichiosis is only magnifying the need for thissupport to remote communities.

AMRRIC CEO Dr. Brooke Rankmore says: “AMRRIC works with our partners toprovide support for companion animals in remote communities- when animals arehealthy, people and communities are healthy. Ehrlichiosis poses a massivethreat to the health of not only dogs but the whole community. By providinganti-parasitic medications to at-risk communities, the threat posed by ticksinfected with the Erhlichiosis bacteria is lessened. The valuable contributionand support provided by Boehringer Ingelheim and PETstock Assist will go along way in supporting communities with this emerging issues.

Starting in September, AMRRIC will begin distributing NexGard, with the helpof residents, to communities in need. This medication will treat dogs who maynot have had access to vet services since 2019. AMRRIC Program Manager-Strategic Delivery Dr Bonny Cumming says: “In the absence of vet programs dueto the wet season and the pandemic, it can be hard for owners in remotecommunities to access effective animal health products. Administering regulartick prevention like NexGard aids in protecting dogs from Ehrlichiosis, and isa great way to support their general health.”

With Ehrlichia canis potentially making its way into more and morecommunities, the work that AMRRIC is doing in collecting data and distributinganti-parasitic medication is increasingly important. AMRRIC has always had afocus on meeting critical needs in community in a collaborative andconsultative way; in the past, this had meant delivering emergency supportfollowing a cyclone or natural emergency, but in this case, the emergency is azoonotic disease new to Australia.

Background on AMRRIC

AMRRIC – Animal Management in Rural and Remote Indigenous Communities – is anational not-for-profit organization. Our One Health, One Wellbeing approachrecognises the inextricable links between human, animal and environmentalhealth and wellbeing. By working with remote Aboriginal and Torres StraitIslander communities across Australia to improve the health of their companionanimals, AMRRIC is helping to create healthier, safer and happier communities.

In the communities where AMRRIC works, access to veterinary services isextremely limited, due to a variety of geographic, social-economic andcultural factors. Without veterinary services, the health and welfare ofanimals suffers, as does the health and wellbeing of community members. AMRRICworks with a range of stakeholders including veterinarians, regional councilsand Indigenous corporations, to ensure remote communities have access toculturally appropriate, effective and ongoing veterinary services. We alsoemploy education programs within local schools and other community groups toshare knowledge with children and adults about animal health and wellbeing,and discuss links to human health and wellbeing. The longer-term objectives ofour model are sustainability and capacity building, so that ultimately,communities can confidently and effectively manage their own companion animalpopulations.

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