Toronto recently held it's second pilot clinic to provide pro-bono veterinary care for pets of the homeless and volunerable housed.
The clinic, which took place at the Young Street Mission (YSM), was run by volunteer veterinarians with appointments being booked on a referral basis by case workers at the YSM.
This clinic is affiliated with the Community Veterinary Outreach program, an initiative that was started by a wonderful and inspiring Ottawa veterinarian Dr. Michelle Lem.
I met Michelle a year ago at the Summit for Urban Animal Strategies. I was immediately awed by the amazing accomplishments of her volunteer work and also by her fabulous and compassionate personality.
We discussed many similar aspirations to improve animal welfare and hoped for a day the Veterinary Community Outreach program could be expanded to Toronto.
And here we are a year later just finishing a second pilot clinic in Toronto with a great group of volunteers and partners.
• Lem and the Community Veterinary Outreach team, which provides the mentorship, model and supplies for the clinics;
• Dr. Mark Kinghorn, from the Roncy Village Vet clinic, who has organized the pilot clinics;
• The Young Street Mission case workers who organize the space and bookings;
• Local volunteer veterinarians;
• Veterinary students and the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) Student Outreach Club;
• The Toronto Humane Society, which generously provides free spay/neuter services to all outreach clients.
Community Veterinary Outreach follows a servant leadership approach to encourage and support the goals of each individual who is part of the Community Veterinary Outreach family. This leadership style makes volunteering at these clinics an extremely uplifting and rewarding experience.
The leadership style also ensures the clients receive the utmost respect and care.
Each client has a half hour appointment with a veterinarian to discuss the health of her animal. Animals are examined, vaccinated, treated for parasites and microchipped. The owners receive education and advice on nutrition, dental care, behaviour and the benefits of sterilization. They are then booked for an appointment at the new spay/neuter clinic that has opened at the Toronto Humane Society.
It's moving to see how appreciative clients are for this service, particularly because the clients targeted to participate in the program have a strong bond with their pets, many for whom that bond may be the most significant relationship in their life.
Programs such as these, which remove cost barriers to animal care and veterinary services, are a core component of improving community animal health and reducing shelter overpopulation.
I look forward to helping to expand programs such as these to serve all Torontonians and pets in need who could not otherwise afford veterinary care.
Related websites of interest
Community Veterinary Outreach | community medicine for people
Pets for Life–A New Community Understanding
(and in relation to the featured cat)
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
Featured Cat of the month
Orange Crush is likely one of the coolest cats you’ll meet. So why then is he still looking for a home? Unfortunately, he has tested positive for FIV (Feline immune deficiency virus). Although FIV positive cats can live long and healthy lives with few, if any, complications from the virus, the FIV stigma often makes them difficult to adopt.
Orange Crush came into the south shelter as an intact tom cat from the streets in mid October. He won me over at his initial examination in the stray room and continued to be an absolute champ throughout his stay at the shelter.
He’s been living in a cage in the treatment room for the past few weeks where he has been watching me treat and neuter dozens of animals that have come through the shelter. He would sit at the front of his cage looking wise and confident, observing everything and chirping out periodically to let you know he’s there and watching.
I knew he was great cat in the shelter, but he reached a whole new level of coolness when I brought him home. He was only at our house for a short while before his new foster home picked him up. They’ve reported the family is in love with him and that “he is soooo affectionate. He prefers to eat from your hand, he loves to sleep with you...they can barely sit down without him cuddling.”
He’s a handsome orange tabby, about 2 years old, neutered, vaccinated and microchipped.
If you’re interested in adopting Orange Crush “AKA Fox” send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Hanna Booth is a shelter veterinarian with a special interest in targeted spay/neuter programs to combat pet overpopulation. Booth and her husband spent a year spaying street animals in Central America; worked as a veterinarian at the Toronto Humane Society; now works for Toronto Animal Services; is a leading member of the Toronto Feral Cat TNR Coalition; and also runs a volunteer program www.torontostreetcats.com. She lives in Roncesvalles with her husband, son, three former street cats and a revolving door of foster cats and kittens.