Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hamilton-Burlington SPCA Subsidizes Spay And Neuter For Low Income Families - First Project Of Its Kind!

The Hamilton-Burlington SPCA has begun offering subsidies for lower-income pet owners to spay and neuter their cats and dogs, a pilot project believed to be the first of its kind in Ontario. “From my perspective, Hamilton does have a significant challenge with poverty and also a significant challenge with the of dogs and cats,” the local SPCA’s CEO, Keith Scott said, “We see this as an opportunity to provide some affordability to low income pet owners to be able to re-emphasize … the importance of spaying and neutering their pets. There are obviously health benefits in the long term.” The new program covers up to 80 per cent of the cost of the surgeries that usually run about $250 for cats and up to $600 for dogs. Scott said the subsidies are on an individual basis and depend on the applicants’ financial situation. There were already four individuals who had contacted them to participate and the first clinic has been scheduled for Dec. 9.

Two days of the week at the SPCA’s companion animal hospital have been slated for this specific program, Scott said, adding he expects 20 cats and 10 dogs will be spayed or neutered under this service each week.
Catholic Family Services (CFS) executive director Linda Dayler said the SPCA’s pilot program was an innovative dimension to the poverty issue in Hamilton. Because having your pet neutered or spayed is so expensive, the SPCA program is “an exciting approach”, she said. “Pets are a great source of comfort and love, especially in terms of seniors. It’s really important that we have pets in our lives and this program will allow us to make sure that the pets are healthy.” The CFS is one of 11 agencies the SPCA has partnered with. The shelter has supplied these organizations with flyers about the program and has asked them to refer community members who qualify for the subsidy.

Dr. Liz O’Brien, a veterinarian at The Cat Clinic in Hamilton, said the program was much needed, as there is an overpopulation of cats across North America. “In Hamilton, we have a crisis for sure,” she said. There’s “fair cost” for spaying and neutering your pet, she said, but studies have shown the importance of animal-human bonding for mental and physical health. In addition to helping people who can’t afford to spay and neuter their pets, the SPCA program “builds bonds between social services and humane societies,” O’Brien said. “It’s another community bond.” There are an estimated 75, 000 dogs in Hamilton, 34, 000 of which are licensed, Scott said, adding 80 per cent of the licensed dogs were spayed or neutered. “That leaves a large percentage that aren’t,” he said. There are an estimated 130,000 cats in the city. Most of the dogs and cats that arrive at the SPCA are not altered, Scott said. “We see it on a daily basis that the need out there is certainly significant from our perspective.”

The pilot program is funded by the SPCA’s capital reserves. The local shelter will hold a community fundraising campaign and is pursuing other funding sources. The program will be reviewed in December 2011.
Application forms for the subsidy are available at www.hbspca.com or SPCA at 905-574-7722, ext. 321. Once animals are spayed or neutered, they will also receive an identification chip and a rabies vaccination.
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