A box of puppies brought into Rainbow District Animal Control, puppies thought to have been abandoned, bring to light the city's need for a low-cost spay and neuter clinic, according to the shelter's manager.
Eight puppies were brought to the shelter on April 27 by a woman claiming to have found them abandoned on Lee Valley Road between Espanola and Massey.
Richard Paquette has since learned that the puppies had never been abandoned, and that the owner, the woman who had originally brought the dogs to the shelter, claimed they were found because she wasn't able to pay what she thought would be a surrender fee in the range of $1,000.
What she didn't realize, Paquette said, is that there is a special rate for people surrendering litters of puppies to the shelter. The normal cost for surrendering adult dogs is $120, and with seven puppies in the box, it would have quickly added up, he said.
The owner has since paid the $200 after coming forward with the real information, Paquette said, and no charges are pending. In fact, Paquette said he personally believes she is a compassionate pet owner, but a supposed fee of $1,000 to surrender the six-week-old puppies led her to what he considered “fraudulent” activity by misrepresenting the situation.
Rainbow District Animal Control will be keeping the puppies up until May 4 before putting them up for adoption. Paquette and his crew need a few days to allow for vaccinations and deworming to take effect.
Since the story of the puppies hit the media, there has been an “overwhelming response” from the public, he said. It means all of the puppies will find forever homes.
However, stories like this, although it comes with a happy ending, brings to light a far more serious problem for Rainbow District Animal Control, Paquette said. Due to “irresponsible pet ownership,” there is an identified need for a number of strategies to rectify the increasing number of animals being surrendered or found.
There seems to be no problem in adopting out dogs and puppies, but there is significant need for foster homes, especially when it comes to putting up cats. Since Jan. 1 of this year, more than 200 cats have been surrendered to animal control.
“It's a big problem for the city,” Paquette said.
The shelter has a goal to become a no-kill facility for all animals, with cats in particular; however, last year, there were 900 cats impounded, and about 450 of them were euthanized. Perhaps even more startling is the fact that of those that lived, only 32 went back to their original owners, Paquette said.
That clearly demonstrates that people think of their pets as “disposable,” he added. “That's sad. These people lose their pet, or the animal starts to spray in the house because they didn't have it spayed by one year of age, and that results in behavioural changes. They throw the animal out the front door and it ends up here unclaimed.”
In order to achieve that no-kill status, several things need to occur, Paquette said. People need to start adopting adult cats from the shelter, but more immediately, the shelter has to increase its number of foster homes. Currently, there are about 25 homes that have taken on the responsibility of foster animals for the shelter. Paquette said that number needs to be more around 100, if not much higher at 200.
If successful in attracting that number of foster homes, it would mean a giant step toward the shelter's no-kill goal, Paquette said.
A bylaw in the City of Greater Sudbury stipulates that pet owners cannot have more than four pets in the home at one time, and no more than two dogs. A person with two dogs can also have two cats, and someone who has only cats is allowed four cats.
Four pets are plenty, Paquette said. There are some exemptions in rural farm areas, but “it's a good rule.”
Sudbury is the only municipality in the shelter's coverage area that has such a bylaw, Paquette said. Animal control officers cover as far west as Spanish and all points in between, including various locations on the Manitoulin Island, and none of them have a number restriction.
The second thing that needs to happen is the city needs to buy into the need for a low-cost spay and neuter clinic, he said. There is already some interest among city councillors who are in favour of such a facility, and Rainbow District Animal Control plans to reiterate this need when councillors enter into budget deliberations.
The idea of a spay and neuter clinic was raised by Northern Life blogger Jan Carrie Steven, a volunteer with Cat Adoption Trust Sudbury (CATS) and the co-ordinator of Small Things: Cats & Books, Paquette said.
“She's Saint Jan,” Paquette said. “She has done more for rescuing cats and saving their lives than any one single person.”
Steven is one of the major proponents of the need for a clinic, he added.
The major cause of death among companion animals in the U.S., and possibly Canada, is euthanasia due to being unwanted, Steven said. Not only is this a sad statistic, but also the more expensive option, she said.
“Folks who do the number crunching on spay-neuter clinics tell us that it is cheaper in the long run to prevent litters, than to have to round them all up, hope for a home, or otherwise euthanize (them),” Steven said.
And while critics might argue that those who cannot afford the costs associated with having a pet shouldn't own one, she said the argument is groundless.
“Even if the 'don't get one if you can't afford it' argument were true, we are not talking widgets here,” Steven said. “We are talking domesticated companion animals, who are completely dependent on us for providing them with good lives and kind deaths.”
The idea would be to have the clinic tendered out to veterinarians within the city. The successful candidate would be given a certain amount of money each year (Paquette said he estimates about $100,000 a year) and it would be run by the municipality. That veterinarian would set aside one day a week to perform the surgeries, in the range of 10-20 spays or neuters on any given day.
“It's won't be, by any means, an assembly line mentality, and the animals will, in no way, receive any less care going through this clinic,” he added.“(The volume) is just a guess from a lay person, because I really have no idea what a vet can do in one day, but I'm thinking that's a realistic number.
People would still have to pay, but only about 50 cents on the dollar of what it would normally cost to walk into a vet clinic, Paquette said.
The cost in Sudbury to have a pet spayed or neutered varies greatly, he said. It can range from $150 up to $500, depending on many things such as medications or if any complications are encountered.
Rainbow District Animal Control spends more than $25,000 a year on spaying and neutering animals prior to adoption, but it receives volume discounts for those services. Paquette said by having a low-cost clinic, which could create competition in the city, it might bring down costs from other veterinarians.
“There is an outcry among residents that Sudbury vet prices are one of the highest in Ontario,” Paquette said. “I'm comfortable with the costs, though, because I think it's all part of being a responsible pet owner.
In the meantime, a foster home is required for a nursing mother and kittens reported found in Espanola, according to the shelter. The cat apparently gave birth recently and is friendly and affectionate. The finder has agreed to hold on to them until suitable arrangements can be made; however, they cannot commit to keeping them for the eight or so weeks while the kittens are weaned.
Anyone who is interested in volunteering can contact the shelter at 705 673 3647.
Kittens from these situations will be vaccinated about a week before being placed for adoption at off-site adoption centres. All proceeds from their adoption are put into the CAT Adoption Trust administered by Small Things: Cats & Books.
Visit smallthings.ca for more information.
Posted by Arron Pickard