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Board director and a northern representative of the Ontario SPCA Judy Decicco (front) with OSPCA chair Catherine MacNeill.

After living and teaching in northern Ontario for 42 years, in northern Ontario, Judy Decicco knows first-hand the animal welfare challenges experienced by dog and cat owners in small and isolated communities: no access to veterinary services, no animal wellness programs and high pet food costs.

As a board director and a northern representative of the Ontario SPCA, she has made it her mission to raise awareness of animal welfare issues and advance the work of the Animal North Network (ANN), in partnership with northern communities, to improve the lives of animals.

The ANN comprises SPCAs, humane societies, animal welfare organizations, corporate sponsors, educators, communities and dedicated volunteers who partner with northern communities to support animal well-being.

One of the most successful initiatives is the Year of the Northern Dog, an Ontario SPCA program providing dog transfers, animal wellness, spay/neuter services and community animal management support in partnership with Indigenous communities in northern Ontario.

Ms. Decicco says there have been several successful ANN projects including transferring at-large dogs to SPCAs and humane societies in central and southern Ontario where they are made available for adoption.

A recent transfer of 40 dogs was carried out by a team of volunteers including the owner of a large equestrian facility in Sudbury area who volunteered his time and the use of his horse trailer to transport the dogs.

“The dogs from the north are special – anyone who has adopted one will tell you that. I have adopted several myself. They are friendly, get on well with other dogs and people, and make lovely pets,” says Ms. Decicco.

Other ANN programs include: the Winter Woofs Project, providing winter dog housing kits to be built as community initiatives in northern Ontario; a program to develop pet food security for Indigenous communities where pet food is both limited and expensive; and Tele-Animal Health, connecting pet owners with veterinarians through technology, giving pet owners with limited resources access to veterinary medicine.

For more about the ANN, visit

Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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