Nanaimo News Bulletin

Fixed animals help control pet population

In just five years, an un-spayed free roaming cat, her mate, and all of their offspring can produce up to 11,800 cats.

It’s a staggering issue that the B.C. SPCA contends with every year, and in February, puts out the call for residents to help during spay and neuter awareness month.

“The terrible reality is that there are still many more animals born in our province every year than there are homes for,” said Lorie Chortyk, B.C. SPCA community relations manager, in a news release. “The SPCA and other rescue groups find homes for thousands of these abandoned or surrendered animals every year, but we know that there are so many more who suffer and die after being abandoned by their guardians. This is a completely preventable problem.”

Unlike many other municipalities, Nanaimo is fortunate to have its own low-income spay and neuter assistant fund for cats. The Spay/Neuter Initiative Program (SNIP), is entirely paid for by a local resident (Marjorie’s Fund), as well as $15,000 every two years by the City of Nanaimo, and since it began, about 5,200 local pets have gone under the knife.

“That’s not for our operations, that’s not for the SPCA, that is literally money for the community and we administrate the program,” said Leon Davis, branch manager of the Nanaimo location.

He said the money is generally used up quite quickly. Program users are asked to chip in about $50 toward the cost of the operation, which costs approximately $110 per cat, but in situations of extreme financial hardship, the entire amount can be waived.

“It is quite a large amount for us to pay, but we will try to work with people as best we can,” Davis said.

Nanaimo’s SPCA branch was shut down for about six weeks in August, after a litter of kittens abandoned at the shelter presented with ringworm. The ordeal cost the branch approximately $20,000 in lost adoption revenues and medical costs, but thanks to the support of the community, the animals and the books have recovered well.

“I am cautiously optimistic that we will exit 2012, hopefully, with a balanced budget,” Davis said. “It was desperate, but people were very generous over Christmas and we really pulled out all the stops and held six fundraisers in a week at one point to make up the difference, and that helped.”

He added that the last animal involved in the outbreak was adopted two weeks ago.

Like other communities, the free roaming cats in Nanaimo are not necessarily all feral – some have been abandoned or are the product of a feral and house cat mating, and are therefore somewhat or fully socialized.

There are currently no programs in Nanaimo for sterilizing feral cats.

“It’s a challenge, there’s lots of feral and free living cats in Nanaimo,” Davis said. “If I had to estimate, I’d say there’s at least a couple thousand.”

During spay and neuter awareness month, the B.C. SPCA challenges residents to help by donating the cost of a spay or cat stay through their online Pawsitive Gifts site, at Davis said a cat bylaw policy similar to that of the City of Calgary, where all cats have to be licensed, fixed and kept indoors would go a long way in the Harbour City.

“If the city had a bylaw that says if you have a cat it has to be licensed and fixed, that would be a huge step in the right direction,” he said. “An animal that is fixed is less likely to roam, so you’re not going to have cats in the streets getting run over or causing accidents.

“Eventually, as those feral populations decreased or died off because of disease, you won’t have the problem anymore.”

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