That means city staff now views a proposal from Sudbury veterinarians as the best way to reform the current spay and neuter program.
The vets' plan would offer discounted procedures to cat owners who can pass a means test. It would replace the current program, which costs about $50,000 a year and offers coupons for cheaper spay and neuter operations. However, the coupons are given out on a first-come, first-served basis, meaning people with lower-incomes aren't necessarily benefiting.
And the program has failed to stop the growth in the number of unwanted pets being killed each year in Greater Sudbury, especially cats. In 2005, for example, 291 cats and 75 dogs were euthanized in the city. That compares to 465 and 100 respectively in 2012.
In April, the finance committee appeared ready to support the OSPCA's offer to run and operate a low-cost spay and neuter clinic, modelled on one that operates in Barrie. In exchange for the use of a surplus building and a break on rent, the OSPCA said it would pay all other costs for the clinic.
But a last-minute appeal from the Sudbury Veterinary Association led the committee to delay the decision. At a finance committee meeting last month, local veterinarian Darren Stinson outlined the association's plan. Stinson said the current program means people in “BMWs” who clearly don't need subsidies pull up to vet offices, with coupons in hand.
And he questioned the quality of care pets receive in the low-cost spay and neuter clinics, which he said unfairly compete with local vets for business. It would make more sense, Stinson said, for pet owners to prove they need a subsidy, for example, by showing forms proving they receive Ontario Works, subsidized housing, Ontario Disability certificate or other forms of social assistance.
The coupons would be restricted to spays and neuters on cats, which Sudbury's vets would provide for between $100-$125.
“There's not a problem with dogs,” he said in July. “There's only a problem with cats.”
With the OSPCA out of the picture, the vets' proposal became the best option, the staff report says, since it meets almost all of the goals the city established when it decided to look for a new approach to spay and neuters.
The report says the OSPCA withdrew its offer because it now has other local priorities.
“Staff have learned through recent conversations with the director of Animal Welfare and Operations at the OSPCA that they are no longer interested in a partnership with the city,” reads the report to the finance committee. “It was explained to staff that the OSPCA is expending all its resources at this time to retrofit a new facility in Sudbury for the sheltering and adoptions of animals in their care.
“They also advised that although the relocation into a new facility at this time is a priority for their organization, they may consider establishing a high-volume, low cost spay neuter clinic using the Humane Alliance Model in the future sometime.”
A decision is expected at Tuesday morning's finance committee meeting.