Animal rights activist Bob Barker has been telling us for decades to have you pet spayed or neutered, but what if you can’t afford it?
The average costs of spay/neutering your pet at a vet clinic can range from $250 to $700, depending on the clinic and the standard of care the animal is receiving.
For many low-income pet owners, this is just too expensive and their animal remains intact and breeding for their lifetime.
While some may say you shouldn’t own a pet if you can’t afford the vet bills, I certainly disagree.
From my experience, most cats in low-income communities come from the street or from litters born in the community. They are pets that would have otherwise been homeless. Also consider the incredible benefits of the human-animal bond, which can be instrumental to people’s health and well-being.
Low-income communities and feral/free-roaming cats represent leading sources of animals that are euthanized in shelters so accessible and affordable sterilization for these animals is critical.
Over the last two decades, programs designed for high-volume sterilization have become the requisite component of prevention to the pet overpopulation.
This article will look at different spay/neuter program models, what we’ve got going on in Toronto and what we’re hoping to move toward.
Demographics, resources and needs will dictate what spay/neuter strategy is best suited for the community.
- Mobile spay/neuter vans, which have a self-contained surgery clinic, tout many benefits including: reaching wide-spread rural areas; targeting communities in dense urban environments; and having a visible presence for marketing and awareness. They are also great for use in emergencies and for other transportation needs including adoption events.
- MASH-style clinics or field surgery are a fast, fun and economical approach to spay neutering specific populations. Mash clinics are great because you can get to areas in greatest need and there are lower start-up costs and quicker start- up times.
I’m a big fan of MASH style clinics. My partner and I drove to Panama and back, performing about 100 MASH-style clinics throughout Central America. We filled our car with all necessary surgical supplies and worked with local rescue groups to run clinics in the communities. Clinics were held in all sorts of random locations such as restaurants, garages and town squares.
I’m sure there are some skeptics wondering how safe this is for the animals, so I’ll include we didn’t lose one animal as a result of the conditions and equipment we were using (out of about 3,000).
Current legislation through the Ontario Veterinarians Act does not allow surgeries to take place outside of an accredited stationary clinic. Shelter veterinarians and other stakeholders in animal overpopulation have been lobbying to have this changed and it's currently under review with the Collage of Veterinarians of Ontario (CVO).
Stationary clinics, which focus on high volume spay/neuter during regular office hours, are a good long-term solution for large urban areas. Toronto is lucky to be the third city in Ontario to open a High Volume, High Quality, Spay Neuter clinic.
The clinic, which is part of the Toronto Humane Society, opened in June. They offer lower cost spay/neuters to a target population of low-income cat owners and feral/rescue cats.
With Toronto’s size and critical cat overpopulation, we are in need of more affordable and accessible spay/neuter services. Thankfully, the city has high hopes of a mobile spay/neuter unit to serve low-income communities and feral and stray cats.
Websites of interest
Spay/Neuter in the City - The ASPCA’s mobile spay/neuter clinics take free spay/neuter to New York City’s low-income neighborhoods.
Humane Alliance: Model for Sustainable HQHVSN - Humane Alliance wrote the recipe for transport, partnerships, and high-volume, high-quality spay/neuter — and it’s no secret.
Cost savings from public funding of spay/neuter
Spay Neuter Service - The Toronto Humane Society
Featured colony cats of the month
These two adorable kittens came into our last TNR clinic. They were born outside a cottage north of Toronto. The feral mother has since disappeared. At the time of trapping, the kittens were anticipated to be feral, but have turned out to be affectionate despite living their first few months outside by themselves. When picked up they immediately become purring machines. They are about 12 to 14 weeks old. Both kittens love to play, they are best of buddies. They also get along well with other cats. They are both sterilized and vaccinated and looking for a good home. It would be ideal if they could be adopted together but could be adopted on their own. If you are interested, contact Penny at 647-300-2011.
Hanna Booth is a shelter veterinarian with a special interest in targeted spay/neuter programs to combate pet overpopulation. Booth and her husband spent a year spaying street animals in Central America; volunteered as a veterinarian at the Toronto Humane Society (THS); works for Toronto Animal service; and leads the Toronto Feral Cat TNR Coalition and runs a volunteer program to help street cats - www.torontostreetcats.com. She lives in Roncesvalles with her husband, son, three former street cats and a revolving door of foster cats and kittens.