CARBONEAR, NL — The cost to spay and neuter an animal might not be a priority expense for pet owners already struggling to keep up with bills.
Fortunately, the Baccalieu Trail SPCA has a program in place to reduce the financial burden this surgical procedure would have on low-income earners. Last year, the non-profit organization launched the PetFix Program. The program is already in place with many other SPCAs across Newfoundland and Labrador and was on the Baacalieu Trail's radar for quite some time.
"It's been one of our goals, but where we've been fundraising to build a shelter, we've kind of had to put it on the backburner," explained Sonya Nolan Baker, chairperson for the local SPCA.
Through an $18,000-grant from the Canfel Foundation, the BT SPCA can assist with the cost to spay and neuter 100 pets. Since last fall, 70 pet owners have been approved for the program, though not all of the surgeries have been completed. Each family must cover a portion of the expense, though the Baccalieu Trail Animal Hospital has agreed to handle the procedure at a reduced cost.
"That made it even more affordable, so we'll hopefully be able to help even more than 100 animals," Baker said.
The cost of the surgery varies depending on the type of animal involved, with the low-end figure coming in at around $250.
Controlling the pet population remains an important issue for all SPCAs. Baker told the Compass cats, often living as indoor-outdoor animals, can breed rapidly if they're not spayed and neutered.
Anyone interested in the PetFix Program is encouraged to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The BT SPCA is still working towards its goal of opening a physical shelter. In 2016, the organization announced its purchase of a seven-acre property in Spaniard's Bay with enough space for a shelter and thrift store. Currently, the thrift store is located at 95 Conception Bay Highway in Bay Roberts.
Two years later, the BT SPCA has enough money in the bank to start work on the building's exterior. Plans for the building itself have been revamped and submitted to Service NL, which came back to them with some suggestions.
"Hopefully we'll resubmit again next week, or early the following week," Baker told the Compass.
The group hopes the project will be ready for the construction phase this spring, though a date for opening a shelter remains less certain.
"Our goal this year is to try and get the outside done and hopefully get some of our cat areas finished, because cats are the biggest concern here," said Baker.
Typically, the organization looks after 130 adoptions annually. The numbers for 2017 are incomplete, but Baker expects they'll be up dramatically. She said a Pet Valu store opening in Carbonear last year proved to be a big help.
Still, getting the shelter open would be ideal for the group. For years, it has relied on the kindness of people willing to foster animals.
"A cat can be in your care for seven months, and that's the longevity of it, but people aren't seeing these cats," said Courtney Clarke, secretary for the local SPCA. "If we had a shelter (where) people could come in and view the animals and interact with them, they'd know their personalities.
“And they look much cuter in real life than they do in pictures, and when people meet the animals they go, 'Oh my gosh. I want this one.' It's harder to get people to see the animals when they're in foster care."
For example, she continued, if a person was interested in a pair of animals in separate foster homes, a potential adoptee might find themselves making trips to Bay Roberts and Victoria.
"They're all over the place. It's going to be much easier when we get the shelter open," Clarke said.
The design for the shelter is scaled down from what was initially planned, as the Bay Roberts location for the thrift store is thriving.
"That thrift store we've decided to keep in Bay Roberts, because it's doing so well there," said Baker.
The new design is approximately two-thirds the size of the original building BT SPCA had in mind, coming in at just under 3,200 square feet. That design includes a meeting room and space for boarding animals.